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Author of the Symbol of Methodism 


Nashville, Tinn. ; Dallas, Tex. 

Publishing House ok the M. E. Church, South 

Smith & Lamar, Agents 



The Founders' Series of biographies is to embrace, 
in volumes of uniform size and style of binding, studies 
in the lives of eminent leaders of Methodism in the 
earlier and middle periods of its history. The design 
of these volumes is to revivify in a new and fresh 
portraiture the personalities and labors of the founders 
of our Church. In issuing the present as the initial 
volume of this series the publishers indulge the belief 
that they have given a foretaste of what the scheme 
means not only in renewing the memory but also in 
reviving the testimony of those great ones in whose 
hands the truths of the gospel were made mighty in 
the salvation of men. The hope is that through the 
reading of these volumes many of the men of to-day 
may imbibe a fuller measure of the spirit and zeal of 
their illustrious spiritual forebears. 


Chapter I. 

The Peasant's Son 9 

Chapter II. 
A Propulsive Experience 20 

Chapter III. 
The Wesleyan Helper 31 

Chapter IV. 
Bringing Up the Balance 40 

Chapter V. 
A Voice in the Wilderness 49 

Chapter VI. 
Under the Stress of Discipline .__. . 63 

Chapter VII. 
Faith against Swords 74 

Chapter VIII. 
\ Mastery of Spirits 86 

Chapter IX. 
"he New American 99 

Chapter X. 
An Apostle by Proof 113 

Chapter XI. 

Pledging History 130 


4 Francis Asbury. 

Chapter XII. Page 

Wrestling with Great Problems 144 

Chapter XIII. 
In the Century's Twilight 161 

Chapter XIV. 
Answering the New Age 177 

Chapter XV. 
Abetting the Makers of the Constitution 194 

Chapter XVI. 
In Apostolic Fellowship 208 

Chapter XVII. 
The Sunset Vision 223 


Two names are immortal in Methodism, and must 
remain transcendent in its history. One of these 
appertains to the Old World, and one to the New. 
The names of John Wesley and Francis Asbury are 
suggestive of that holiness, self-devotion, and resource- 
fulness of leadership which have made Methodism the 
most effective religious force that has appeared since 
the apostolic days. 

The study of early Methodist biography is a certain 
means of preserving Methodist ideals. Truth and 
providence embody themselves in human life, and are 
thus borne across the tracts of time and space, as are 
precious odors in the urns in which they have been 
confined. This study will also lead to the develop- 
ment of a new evangelism. The spirit of the men of 
the early Methodist era was such as quickly reincar- 
nates itself when a sympathetic contact is made with 
their times. 

It is with a view to promoting a return to these 
early sources of inspiration that I have undertaken 
to conduct a sympathetic and discriminating study of 
the life and work of that apostolic man, Francis 

Icelandic spar has its lines of refraction so nearly 
coincident with those of water that a fragment of that 
crystal immersed in water becomes invisible. The 
personal history of Francis Asbury coincides so com- 
pletely with the history of early American Methodism 
that one sees through the story of the apostle, as 


6 Francis Asbury. 

through transparent crystal, the outlines of the age 
in which he wrought. The Church was the travail 
of the apostle's faith and love. American Methodists 
have neither used nor honored the memory of Asbury 
as they should. There is inexcusable ignorance of 
his great work and of his great claims upon Ameri- 
cans in general. There is indeed a persistent tradition 
which keeps his name familiar, and which suggests 
that he is entitled to an indefinite place in the category 
of innumerable saints, but there is no distinct and vital 
perception of the man as the chief maker of a great 
religious commonwealth of which all Americans are 
either members or beneficiaries. There is almost no 
recognition of the man for what he was in a pre- 
eminent degree — namely, one of the makers and 
fathers of the temporal fabric. So abstractly devoted 
to his apostolic mission, so utterly not of this world, 
was he in motive and act that his own spiritual insist- 
ency impressed the temporal lords and teachers to the 
point of forgetting or overlooking the service which 
he rendered, over and above his apostolic office, to the 
State and to secular civilization. 

The personal and official influence which Asbury 
exercised for nearly half a century upon the pioneer 
communities of the republic gave them not only a most 
distinct religious momentum, but hedged them about 
with social restraints that formative constitutions and 
feebly enforced statutes could not have maintained 
alone. The direct annual contact of this man of com- 
manding individuality and holy life with the groups 
of squatters and pioneers in the unpoliced wilderness- 
es, and the sentry-like round of his personally directed 
army of itinerants, supplied a lack in the civil author- 

Prologue. 7 

ity that, left uncured, had doomed our great Middle, 
Western, and Southern commonwealths to distressing 
moral deficiencies, if not entailments of deadly moral 

It is a plain word, but a true, that Francis Asbury 
has not had from either the religious or the secular 
side of the republic a just recognition of his place and 
service in our national history. As for a monument, 
history made and protected, the Methodist Church is 
in evidence. But the spiritual offspring and successors 
of the apostolic pioneer have not even been diligent 
to see that his name is set upon the monument which 
history has built for him. Here and there a humble 
chapel bears that august name, while lesser names of 
his successors monopolize great piles, and are per- 
petuated to posterity by institutions of augmenting re- 
sources and cumulative ministries. Why should not 
some dominating minster, some monumental institu- 
tion representing the combined loyalty and gratitude 
of all Methodism, attest its memory of the patri- 

I insist also that a more pointed inquiry may be 
directed against the neglect of at least certain of the 
States of the eighteenth century republic. Particu- 
larly the commonwealths of Maryland, Virginia, the 
Carolinas, Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee 
owe this man a secular as well as a spiritual recogni- 
tion. While their fabrics endure the toils, the sacri- 
fices, the large-visioned services of this man will be 
a cement and a bond in their foundations. It wants 
now but seven years to complete a century since his 
quiet going from amongst men. Surely the time has 
come for the payment of a historic debt. 

8 Francis Asbury. 

What is strangest still in all this ill-fulfilled obli- 
gation is that no master of the pen has taken it as his 
crowning task to fully and historically portray this 
initial exponent of the chiefest religious order of the 
New World. More than one faithful and reverent- 
minded man has treated it as a work of love, but each 
has submitted his tribute as confessedly insufficient, 
and as a pledge and hope of something completer, 
more ideal. In the present volume I have aspired 
to pass at least a little beyond the boundaries of other 
biographers of Asbury in an effort to produce not so 
much a detailed narrative of his wonderful, simple 
ministry as to construct from the details of the nar- 
rative a portrait of the wonderful, simple man. If I 
shall but be recognized as a pioneer in this newer and 
truer study, I will count the result a sufficient reward 
of my labors. 


The Peasant's Son. 

The accidents of birth count for little. Francis 
Asbury, the real founder and first bishop of the Meth- 
odist Church in North America, was born the son of 
an English peasant, and passed his early years under 
conditions that spoke no syllable of prophecy concern- 
ing the illustrious career he was destined to complete. 

The story of Asbury's childhood as told by himself 
is of meager and homely detail, and he even leaves us 
in doubt as to the exact date of his birth. This he, 
however, fixes as either the 20th or 21st day of August, 
1745. The terseness with which he has sketched the 
entire chapter of his early life is exceedingly tanta- 
lizing ; but as no other hand known to us has attempted 
to enlarge the record, we must be content to draw 
from the brief and unembellished autobiography. 

The spot made famous as the birthplace of Asbury 
is described in his journal as being situated "near the 
foot of Hampstead Bridge in the parish of Hands- 
worth, about four miles from Birmingham in bstat- 
fordshire." But that was Birmingham of the first half 
of the eighteenth century. The Birmingham destined 
to see the perfecting of the steam engine and the 
steel furnace, and to become the synonym of industrial 
magic, long ago inclosed within its wide-reaching sub- 
urbs the site of the peasant father's cot, so that much 


io Francis Asbury. 

concerning even its identity must be left to conjecture. 
But of how little consequence is this! Homer is 
Homer, wherever his birthplace. The main signifi- 
cance of Asbury's life belongs to another hemisphere 
than that which held the once green fields and bucolic 
homes of Handsworth parish. 

The efforts of well-meaning biographers to amend 
the social rank of Asbury's family are without profit, 
as they are without justification. Joseph Asbury, the 
father of Francis, was of humble antecedents, and the 
lineage of his mother was no prouder. Asbury him- 
self plainly says that his parents belonged to the stock 
of the common people. As a means of livelihood the 
father followed gardening for the rich families of the 
parishT Moreover, his plainness of intellect comported 
with his rank and fortune, and suggests no explana- 
tion in heredity of the greatness of the son. He ap- 
pears to have found time outside of his days of hire 
to cultivate the scanty acres that lay about his cottage, 
itself leased from some feudal landlord. The produce 
of these acres, with his wages, constituted his entire 
income. The family of which he was the head ate 
its bread in the sweat of one honest face. 

A somewhat sinister touch has been given the para- 
graph devoted by most of the bishop's biographers to 
the elder Asbury. This appears to have come about 
mainly in consequence of the absence of a definite 
testimony from the son, whose account of his parent 
is summed up in a few respectful allusions. The nega- 
tive record is not an impeachment, nor even a depre- 
ciation. Beyond any doubt, Joseph Asbury was a 
man of real, if still of simple, worth. He had excellent 
points, and though evidently not of an assertive spirit, 

The Peasant's Son. n 

enjoyed the respect of honest men and the reverence 
of his own household. In such faith and sturdiness 
as his the Commonwealth of England has been 
grounded since Runnymede, and these also furnished 
the soil in which the seeds of the Wesleyan revival 
took ready and lasting root. 

The mother of Asbury, like the mother of the Wes- 
leys, was devout and actively religious. Moreover, she 
was, for her station, a woman of exceptional intelli- 
gence, and this counted in the rearing of her son for 
more than enhanced rank or fortune. Her manner was 
serious and quiet, and her judgment, tempered by an 
unfailing charity, was always clear and safe. In his 
maturer years the son extolled her as ''the tenderest 
of mothers," and it is certain that the affectionate en- 
comium was merited. The early death of an only 
daughter had chastened her spirit and greatly accen- 
tuated her devotional habits. In his journal the Bish- 
op has drawn a picture of his mother as he saw her 
in his childhood days "standing by a large window 
poring over a book for hours together." The touch 
is simple enough, but in connection with the reader's 
instinctive remembrance of a tiny mound white with 
hawthorn petals in Handsworth's ancient church- 
yard it takes on the sanctity and beauty of an el- 

, Asbury's strong early moral and religious bent may 
'well be supposed to have come from his mother, 
though in the matter of training their son she was 
not without sympathy and help from her husband. 
Both were zealous members of the Established 
Church, and in their humble home they kept alight 
the lamp of prayer. Nor was that home a stranger to 

12 Francis Asbury. 

outside influences. So alert and spiritually sympa- 
thetic was Elizabeth Asbury that she constantly at- 
tracted to her hearthstone religious teachers capable 
of imparting the soundest and most helpful instruc- 
tion. In time she came herself also to be a leader of 
devotional meetings held amongst her female neigh- 
bors. Thus she created about the life of her only son 
unusual religious conditions, the influences of which 
wrapped his after years in solitudes of apostolic sanc- 

But for the knowledge which we have of this ma- 
ternal devotion and care, and the simpfy fervent reli- 
gious atmosphere pervading his early home, it would 
be difficult to receive unquestioningly the account 
given by the Bishop in after years of his boyish recti- 
tude. The climax of this early ethical sense is ex- 
pressed in the declaration that he had "neither dared 
an oath nor hazarded a lie." Scarcely less exception- 
al is the testimony that when his early companions 
were found to be vile he could not join them in their 
offenses, but grieved in secret over their impurities. 
The world has had its souls of childhood over which 
the Epiphany of Bethlehem has prevailed. There have 
been those who were sanctified from their mothers' 
wombs, nor do they belong wholly to the ancient 
world. The name of the peasant's son for whom was 
reserved the apostleship of the New World is not un- 
worthy to be mentioned with those of Isaiah and John 
the Baptist. The soul that sacrificed and toiled and 
grew ever whiter and stronger preaching the gospel 
in the American wilderness had drawn its life from 
far-off sources and through channels of unwonted 
purity. It indeed belonged to a "mysterious order " 

The Peasant's Son. 13 

and employed in its active testimony ''the unused and 
unsuspected forces that slumber in religion." 

Poor at best were the educational advantages pro- 
vided for the peasant children of England in the eight- 
eenth century, but they were often rendered still fur- 
ther impossible by reason of the brutal system of peda- 
gogy then in vogue. This system has been mercilessly, 
though only too justly, caricatured by Charles Dick- 
ens in "Nicholas Nickleby," in the methods credited 
to "Old Squeers" of "Do-the-boys-Hall." The mas- 
ter of the Staffordshire school to which young Asbury 
was sent proved to be a veritable "Old Squeers.'' The 
piously reared lad lacked the pugnacity of a Nickleby ; 
perhaps he lacked a certain wholesome worldly-mind- 
edness, and so did not resist the tyrant of the ferrule. 
Instead, when beaten by the churlish master, he had 
recourse to tears and prayers in secret, but the gen- 
eration of Squeers neither heard prayers nor indulged 
in the foible of mercy. 

Largely as the result of the cruelty which was vis- 
ited upon him, but possibly also because of the absence 
of educational ideals in his parents, pious and devoted 
though they were, it was decided that the future Bish- 
op should make his way without further training in 
school. Piety and probity are not always wisdom; 
even love, the master passion of the human breast, is 
fallible, often even to blindness. But when God and 
nature fashion a great man they not only set a sign 
upon his outward members, but they leave a secret 
in his heart which he must needs manifest in spite 
of lagging fortune or imperfect ministries. In a time 
when unseen forces wrought upon him, the son of 
the peasant manifested his secret ; but in tender years 

14 Francis Asbury. 

he was withdrawn from school and did not again take 
up seriously the pursuit of knowledge until a maturer 
age and a newer inspiration set him upon the difficult 
task of self-help. Nevertheless, at the age of seven 
he had learned to read, and found in the heroic books 
of the Bible a literature that stirred his thought, so 
genuinely insinuating and inspiring are those match- 
less epics and chronicles of the Hebrew Scriptures. 

As well as can be Judged from the scrappy material 
upon which we are building, the cutting short of As- 
bury's school-going occurred some time after he had 
entered his eleventh year. He must therefore have 
had three or four years of more or less continuous 
training, which will account for the fairly rudimentary 
foundation on which his later learning was built. 

An education being now no longer considered, the 
lad must begin to earn his own bread. To that end 
service was accepted for him in the house of a Staf- 
fordshire gentleman of rank and means, and, as the 
story goes, of ungodly life and habits. Nothing more 
certainly argues the humble state of the Asbury family 
than this going of the only child, while yet of tender 
years, into service. Nothing short of necessity could 
have induced the pious gardener and his wife to con- 
sent to such an arrangement for their son. But it 
betrayed their homely view concerning the career to 
which providence had destined their offspring. Peas- 
ants they were, nor could they look beyond the hori- 
zon of their peasant lives ; or if so, they dreamed not 
how it might be widened for them or theirs. The 
social estates of eighteenth-century England were 
separated by almost impassable barriers. The Wes- 
leyan reformation, more than any other force, broke 

The Peasant's Son. 15 

down these barriers, and made of the bulk of the peas- 
antry a great middle class in English life. It also 
made this middle class intellectually potent. 

The entrance of young Asbury into the service of 
the Staffordshire gentleman was in some respects an- 
other case of Joseph in the house of Potiphar. The 
surroundings were unfavorable to piety, but the well- 
taught and prayer-guided youth escaped serious con- 
tamination, though he speaks of awakened pride as a 
consequence of his new relations. But his term of 
service was destined to bring a double reward. The 
family in which he served was a polite one, and seems 
to have affected the best code of manners known to 
the English gentry of that day. The courtesies and 
habits of gentility must needs have impressed the sym- 
pathetic youth accustomed to solitude and social isola- 
tion. He could not have been an inapt observer of 
the manners of the great people whom he served. At 
least one of his biographers is led to believe that it 
was during this service that Asbury himself acquired 
that ease of manner and action that afterwards made 
him appear so much at home in the houses of the aris- 
tocratic people of North America. Thus are the para- 
bles of providence expounded ; thus does destiny neg- 
lect no smallest element in fitting men to fulfill her 
high decrees. It would be a safe undertaking to show 
that the stay of Joseph in Potiphar's house contrib- 
uted largely toward preparing him for lordship over 
all the land of Egypt. So was Asbury, while a servant 
in the house of his rich neighbor, fitted in one of the 
particulars necessary to the success of his apostolate 
in the New World. 

The good sense and religious instincts of the As- 

16 Francis Asbury. 

burys probably suggested an early termination of their 
son's relations to an ungodly master ; so after a time 
probably about a year — the arrangement ended, and 
the lad was later apprenticed for a period of six and 
one-half years to learn a trade. There is some doubt 
as to the character of this trade, Asbury being, as it 
would seem, designedly silent on that point, as upon 
so many other matters relating to this period of his 
life. Some say that it was the trade of a saddler, while 
others have it that he learned the business of a button 
or buckle maker. It was more probably the former, 
though so far as I have ascertained only one of his 
biographers has adopted this view. 

His new relations brought him into contact with 
people whose social and religious ideals were con- 
genial. In his new master's household he dwelt as a 
member of the family, and set earnestly about the 
task of learning his trade. Here is the Pauline prece- 
dent. The saddle maker of Staffordshire strikes on 
the beginning level of the tent maker of Tarsus. The 
affinity between apostolicity and labor is ancient and 
continuous. The master workman in spiritual things 
is shadowed forth in the growing skill of the appren- 
tice who honors his craft. 

That Asbury would in time have made a master 
saddler may well be supposed; but God had another 
use for the untaught son of the peasant, and was soon 
to give him a token of that choice. However, at this 
time there was neither sign nor voice, and the youth 
had settled down to contentment with his lot. No in- 
tellectual longing or dream of ambition visited him. 
Indeed, it is likely that the moiety of learning ac- 
quired in childhood was, with the dreams of infancy, 

The Peasant's Son. ly 

becoming irrelevant amid the listlessness of toilful 
and bookless days. These are the conditions under 
which the brain becomes sluggish and the pain of 
desire is soothed into indifference. Here begins the 
inertia of those millions who live and die without giv- 
ing a sign. 

This is not the place to assess the intellectual powers 
of Asbury, but a reference to his healthy mentality 
properly comes in here. In spite of the cruel treat- 
ment received at the hands of a churlish schoolmaster, 
the lad showed an early though not extraordinary 
aptitude for letters. But the exceptional quality — the 
real precocity — of his taste was in his choice of read- 
ing, though we cannot know how much of this was 
necessity. We cannot know if any brave tales of ad- 
venture, any high-drawn romances, were brought with- 
in his reach to be turned down for those serious and 
solid volumes which first entranced his soul. The 
genius of Asbury, if genius he had beyond "the art of 
taking pains," was in the ethereally ethical element of 
his thoughts. The Galilean light shone through them. 
Had there been a record of these thoughts in child- 
hood, or had his peasant surroundings afforded any 
chance for their expression, then indeed might a 
prophecy of his future goings have been read ; but 
even the mother heart that warmed with unutterable 
tenderness the life of his own could not read out the 
secret of the days of her son. To see him come in 
blamelessness to maturity, and filling at last the room 
of his father as the servant of a gentleman or the 
keeper of his horse and hounds was all she knew or 
dared to dream for him. 

His peasant lineage transmitted to the future Bishop 

18 Francis Asbury. 

a sinewy and well-knit frame. Though in America 
Asbury's body early became the prey of diseases that 
slowly sapped his strength, he was by nature healthy 
and strong-fibered. No other supposition can account 
for the fifty-five years of incessant labors and hard- 
ships which he endured as an itinerant evangelist, 
forty-five of which were spent on the rough, wide floor 
of the American continent, in traveling over which he 
averaged not less than five to six thousand miles per 
year. The maladies from which he so sorely and con- 
stantly suffered in America had their origin in the 
plentiful malaria which he absorbed during the first 
years of his itinerant service in the lowlands of Mary- 
land. A wiser regimen and a better medical advice 
would no doubt have saved him years of suffering and 
preserved him in strength to the end of his clays. The 
testimony is that in his youth the measures of sun- 
shine and English day built into his frame shone out 
in a ruddy comeliness, and that to see him was to 
mark the heritage of a body destined to a goodly use. 
Described in later life as "tall, thin, and gaunt," with 
the face and air of a soldier whose toils had wasted 
early strength and impaired youthful beauty, he was 
in younger manhood a figure that suggested athletic 
vigor veiled with the contemplative manner of the 
eremite and saint. 

Thus I have considered and put as far as may be 
possible into consistent outline what is certainly known 
concerning the infancy and boyhood of one of the 

most noteworthy men of the later Christian ages 

a man to whom was opened such a door as seldom 
invites to even gospel labors ; a man who, measured 
by the extent and results of his ministry, is preemi- 

The Peasant's Son. 19 

nently entitled to be named an apostle, and yet a man, 
it may be repeated, upon whom heaven stole unawares 
with its blessings and honors. 

When entering upon his fourteenth year, and having 
settled down to the life of a saddler's apprentice, he 
was without other pledge than that which covered the 
lives of his fellow-peasants, and without monitor or 
impulse to recall him from the intellectual indifference 
into which he had been banished by the ferrule of a 
cruel pedagogue. But a new and sudden influence 
was about to set his feet in wider paths. 

A Propulsive Experience. 

The experience which turned back the captivity of 
Asbury's youth and caused his powers and purposes 
to set in the direction of action came to him near 
the end of his fifteenth year. For a considerable 
time previous to this he had been under special reli- 
gious influences, and a series of spiritual emotions 
had held him in a state of constant inquiry and con- 
cern. These at last culminated in a perfect illumi- 
nation. While he and a companion were praying in 
his father's barn, he was definitely converted. It was 
then that he was able to believe that God had par- 
doned his sins and justified his soul in believing. From 
that moment he was, as described in his own words, 
"happy, free from guilt and fear, had power over sin, 
and felt great inward joy." Immediately also he 
turned to reading and prayers, and soon appointed 
meetings for his youthful friends whom he began 
systematically to instruct, while giving attention to his 
own spiritual and intellectual needs. 

His career as a Methodist began in a most orthodox 
way. The son of the stanchest of Church of England 
parents, he was converted in a fashion particularly 
agreeing with Wesleyan precedents. Nor was this 
conformity the result of chance, or even of a general 
providence, but was the outcome of the instructions 
given him by his recently found Wesleyan advisers. 
He was a penitent seeking an assurance in conscious- 
ness of the divine forgiveness. To this assurance 

A Propulsive Experience. 21 

when imparted by the Holy Spirit, not only his faith 
but his future destiny responded. 

With his conversion emerged a longing and hunger 
for perfect love or entire sanctification, which was 
also in harmony with the new doctrine which he 
had embraced. This desire for the perfecting of his 
faith continued to be a passion throughout his after 
life. His journal, indeed, for the space of nearly half 
a century is a continuous stair sloping upward toward 
the chambers of perfectness. But so far as one may 
judge from his own words, he reached no place which 
he was willing to call the goal. Concerning an expe- 
rience which came to him soon after his conversion, 
and which he for a time misnamed the blessing of 
perfection, he writes : "Some time after I had ob- 
tained a clear witness of my acceptance with God, 
the Lord showed in the heat of youth, and youthful 
blood, the evil of my heart. For a short time I en- 
joyed, as I thought, the pure and perfect love of God ; 
but this happy frame did not long continue, although 
at seasons I was greatly blessed." 

One of the very latest entries in his journal is: "I 
live in God from moment to moment." And these two 
entries may be taken as fairly expressive of his views 
and experiences in this matter during his whole life. 
The record does not vary in important particulars 
from that found in Wesley's journal concerning his 
own experience regarding the same doctrine. 

Strikingly alike indeed in all essential details were 
the experiences of John Wesley and the man who 
stands next to him in the centuries of Methodist his- 
tory. The most noteworthy resemblances are found 
in the sharp and prolonged struggle which in each 

22 Francis Asbury. 

case led up to the point of submission, in the simple 
inward manifestations, in the clearness of the testimo- 
nies given, in the momentary eclipse following each 
testimony, in the early dissipation of the doubts of 
each, and in the abiding vision thereafter. 

The chief points of contrast in the experiences of 
these two remarkable men are referable to the dis- 
parity of their years and the diverse conditions of 
their mental attainments when they entered into light. 
Wesley's powers had fully matured; Asbury was still 
in the years of adolescence. Wesley was a priest in 
orders in the Church of England, a graduate of Ox- 
ford, a man of wide reading and observation, and 
one whose ministry had already touched two worlds ; 
Asbury was all but untutored, was ignorant of the lit- 
erature and the men of the world, and had barely 
traveled beyond the limits of his native shire. We 
shall see how significant are these likenesses and how 
unimportant are these differences as they affect the 
main fact. 

The faith of childhood is always genuine and often 
develops into distinct apprehensions. The Son of 
Man not only heard the cries of harlots and publicans 
when they prayed no more than the prayers of little 
children, but also forgave the sins of those who could 
show no more than the faith of infancy. The begin- 
ning faith of Francis Asbury was that of a child 
who believed through a logic of the heart more com- 
plete and convincing than that of the proudest philos- 
ophies of men. Both Wesley and Asbury had meas- 
ures of faith before the epoch-making days to which 
they refer their conversions. Wesley was sure of this 
in his own case, and made a notable entry to that 

A Propulsive Experience. 23 

effect in his journal. The roots of Asbury's faith are 
distinctly traceable in the acts and emotions of his 
earliest childhood. But with him, as with his great 
spiritual exemplar, there was one day when the Spirit 
spoke and when the penitent heard for all times and 
all destinies — when the currents of his life, gathering 
new force and volume, set full toward the deeps of 
God and his truth. 

If Asbury appears reticent and secretive concern- 
ing the material details of his early history, he has 
in a few unstudied words sketched clearly enough the 
anatomy of his spiritual emotions. Even before he 
was twelve years old the Spirit strove frequently and 
powerfully with him ; and though these visitations did 
not immediately bring him into a knowledge of the 
life from above, they did work effectually in keeping 
him from being led captive by the evil below. While 
still in his fourteenth year he was blessed with im- 
pressions yet more distinct; and whereas the former 
had left him only disturbed emotions, these latter pro- 
duced in him a desire to obey. This awakening came 
through the conversations of a pious layman — a new 
accession to the parish neighborhood — whom his 
mother had thoughtfully invited to their home. But 
though this pious man could excite spiritual desires, 
he could not perfectly instruct those whom he had 
awakened. The thirsty youth therefore turned to his 
parish priest, but found him for this use a broken 

West Bromich was a village of Staffordshire two 
or three leagues distant from the Asbury home. The 
parish church there was under evangelical influences, 
and in its pulpit appeared from time to time the most 

24 Francis Asbury. 

noted evangelical preachers of the Established Church. 
To this church young Asbury betook himself, and 
there heard not a few great expounders of the 
gospel, amongst them the discriminating and faithful 
Venn, and Haweis, the devout chaplain of the Countess 
of Huntingdon. To these and to others to whom he 
there listened he bears the pleasing testimony that they 
preached the truth. The doctrines which they ex- 
pounded were steadily and surely making him free. 

To his reawakened intellectual sense, which ex- 
pressed itself in a steady reading habit, he owed his 
discovery of Methodism. The medium of this dis- 
covery was the sermons of Whitefield and Cennick. 
It may well be believed that these discourses did little 
more than deepen an already active desire, for, clearly 
enough, it was not possible for a youth of fifteen to 
comprehend them unaided. Of his mother he in- 
quired concerning the Methodists. She had not her- 
self, as it appears, come in contact with any repre- 
sentative of the United Societies; but her tolerant 
soul led her to give a good account of that way to her 
son. This indorsement influenced him to set out for 
Wednesbury, another near-by parish, in which the 
Methodists had established a preaching place, and 
where he had the good fortune to hear the saintly 
Fletcher. Although the spoken discourses of this 
holy man impressed him deeply and indeed fixed in his 
mind the ideal of a completed Christian experience, 
he seems to have been brought by them no nearer to 
a finality than he had been by the printed sermons of 
Whitefield. But from the first his soul was fascinated 
by the simple and hearty service of the Methodists. 
From a record of his emotions made long afterwards 

A Propulsive Experience. 25 

in his journal the following is taken: "I soon found 
that this was not the Church, but it was better. The 
people were so devout, men and women kneeling 
down, saying, 'Amen.' Now behold ! they were sing- 
ing hymns, sweet sound ! Why, strange to tell, the 
preacher had no prayer book, and yet he prayed won- 
derfully ! What was more extraordinary, the man 
took his text and had no sermon book : thought I, this 
is wonderful indeed. It is certainly a strange way, 
but the best way. He talked about confidence, assur- 
ance, etc., of which all my flights and hopes fell 

Notwithstanding his failure to experience relief, he 
continued to attend these ministrations, and strove 
with constancy and prayer to bring his case to an 
issue, as he saw others do, under the direct appeals 
of the exhorters and preachers ; but that great bene- 
diction was reserved for a quiet moment in secret, and 
for a place apart, which the Spirit had chosen. Both 
the place and experience were to become historic. 

Methodism owes the force which has made it his- 
toric to an experience. That experience was a per- 
sonal one ; but a multitude of similar experiences, 
with their resulting testimonies, combined and stream- 
ing through the channels of thought and action, have 
operated to change the moral and religious aspects 
of the modern world. The true significance of his- 
toric Wesleyanism is to be sought not in the theology 
which it has articulated — for it has written not one 
credal statement — nor in the vast ecclesiasticism 
which it has built up, but in conditions which pre- 
vail in twentieth century England and America, and 
in the marvelous colonial antipodes — nay, in "the 

26 Francis Asb 


whole changed temper of the modern world: the 
new ideals in its politics, the new spirit in its religion, 
the new standard in its philanthropy." 

It is but further affirmative of the spirit of Wes- 
lcyanism to say that the fact that it expresses itself 
and reveals its creed in the history of an experience 
is the fact in which it most closely resembles apostolic 
Christianity. Early Christianity owes its wide and 
successful propagation to an experience which fell to 
Saul the Pharisee in the olive vistas before Damascus. 
This is more than to say that the conversion of Saul 
gave to Christianity its best-equipped, most zealous, 
and most fearless preacher. It gave to Christianity 
the typical miracle of the power of Jesus to suddenly 
and completely transform and illuminate a human 
life. It also gave to history — that of the then emer- 
ging days and to all time — a force, a power, pene- 
trating, pervasive, propulsive, and procreative to the 
end of the ages. The Aldersgate experience of John 
Wesley was in the order of that of Damascus, and 
simply renewed to it that testimony which had been 
lost by a Church long enslaved by formalism. Ab- 
solutely personal and of the order of the individual 
consciousness were these two conversions, but they 
became, in their historic aftermath, world conver- 
sions — the causes and geneses of vast epochs of human 

By force of a divine logic the conversion of every 
human soul sets in motion a propulsive energy 
throughout the circle of that soul's powers. In scrip- 
tural regeneration the whole man answers — heart 
soul, intellect, and the extraneous sympathies as well 
It is transition from death to life. The man who 

A Propulsive Experience. 27 

believes and confesses must move. That movement 
is necessarily out of self, and hence the contagion 
of Christianity and the historic force of apostolic tes- 
timony to conversion. 

The stress of Wesleyan theology and experience is 
placed on conscious conversion and the witness of 
the Spirit, and properly so. In that experience and 
testimony the movement known as Methodism really 
began. That this experience and its accompanying 
witness have power to lift and even compel men out 
of themselves, to attain the highest and best not only 
in spiritual but also in intellectual things, the lives 
of not a few of Methodism's greatest and most typical 
exponents testify. After John Wesley there is no 
more conspicuous illustration of this propulsive power 
to be found than Francis Asbury, who not only en- 
tered through his conversion into an apostolic expe- 
rience, but who by reason of his faith and spirit- 
quickened sense rose from the lowliest of social con- 
ditions and even from untutored helplessness to a 
most exalted sphere of action, and one matched by 
an intellectual attainment that expounds the steps by 
by which it was reached. 

A biographer of Wesley has called attention to the 
fact_that,/the two great Reformations — German and 
English — met in the conversion of the founder of 
Methodism. It was Peter Bolder, the Moravian, who 
Jed him into the light of justification by faith alone. 
But Anglicanism, the theological system to which 
Wesley held, had got its confession from German 
Protestantism. The Thirty-Nine Articles were the 
offspring of the Augsburg Articles of Luther and 
Melanchthon, and the doctrine of justification by 

-S Francis Asbury. 

faith alone is to be found in each. The first historic 
contact of the two Reformations, that which oc- 
curred in the compiling of the Edwardine Articles 
in Cranmer's time, produced the letter of the doc- 
trine ; the second contact, that which occurred in Wes- 
ley's conversion, produced the fire, the life of the 
Spirit, and also produced the perfect type of Protes- 

In the conversion of Francis Asbury no historical 
relations are suggested — that is, none save a contact 
with the ancient pentecostal and Pauline experiences. 
But the Holy Ghost acted upon the soul of the Staf- 
fordshire peasant lad in the same manner and to the 
same end that He did upon the soul of the scholar and 
master of Oxford. He put no difference between them, 
purifying their hearts by faith, and faith alone. 

It is their religion — that is, the peculiar type of it, 
considered as resulting from a conscious conversion 
at a definite time and witnessed to by the Holy Ghost 
— that gives meaning to the life of both Wesley and 
Asbury If this is not truer of the life of Asbury, at 
least the differences wrought by his experience are 
more certainly traceable. The personality and powers 
of Asbury, considered apart from his faith, and that 
passion of love which his faith begot within him, 
could never have become a world force or even an 
important determinative in history. Faith not only 
stood to him in the stead of intellectual power and 
transcendency, but the power of an endless life 
streaming out of his conversion experience wrought 
in him, as an after result, an intellectual effectiveness 
otherwise impossible. "Love taught him wisdom • 
love gave him power " 

A Propulsive Experience. 29 

The lesson for the Church in Asbury' isto 
be found in the fact that his power of triumph_is 
inevitably related to his conversion, a distinct and 
clearly marked spiritual and intellectual crisis^ ._. The 
value, of this lesson is not because, of exceptional 
points in Asbury's conversion, bu£__hecause of the 
absence of these — because it was typical. 

It is impossible to discover the mental processes 
which led up to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus; 
the record is silent on what would no doubt have 
proved a most interesting but perhaps confusing psy- 
chological story. The important fact only was set 
down — namely, that it was a sudden, overmastering, 
and never-to-be-effaced revelation of divine power. 
The common marks of the highest types of historic 
conversions are the defmitehess of the Spirit's mani- 
festation and the response thereto of the penitent con- 
sciousness. All those lives whose testimonies have 
got into the calendar of the regeneration have had 
the hidings of their power here. In his prejustifi- 
cation tests Wesley observed that all scriptural con- 
versions were sudden and distinctly marked, and it 
was the holding of himself to this rule that brought 
to him that quickening without which his life had 
been barren of those miracles of ministry and marvels 
of thought which have so greatly enriched the world. 
The case of Asbury makes a syllogism yielding a 
conclusion only less significant. The logic of the 
Spirit is the same. 

To sum up: If John Wesley had not felt his heart 
"strangely warmed" in that humble meeting in Al- 
dersgate Street on May 24, 1738, the world had 
known no preeminent Wesley, the man of fire and 

30 Francis Asbury. 

zeal, the man of pentecostal experience, nor had 
eighteenth century England known the quickening 
of the Wesleyan revival, nor perhaps any equivalent 
of it, and so the England of to-day had been another 
England than it is. If the Spirit had not in a similar 
manner, some two and twenty years later, visited the 
heart of Francis Asbury, Wesley's few sheep in the 
American wilderness might have perished or gone 
astray for lack of leadership. In that case it is not 
difficult to think of the New World as having been 
left without its most distinct and potential evangelical 
force. It is thus that the fate and welfare of nations 
turn upon the things which God brings to life in the 
awakening of the hearts of those whom he calls to 
be his saints. It is thus that his saints are made to 
sit upon thrones in the judgment of this world. It 
is thus that conversions become more decisive than bat- 
tles and revivals of religion more determinative of 
human history than political revolutions. It was thus 
that the name of Francis Asbury came to be illustrious ; 
it was thus that he of the humble beginning and the 
humble faith was, at last, given so large a share in 
settling the life of a continent and in influencing the 
destinies of mankind in general. 

The Wesleyan Helper. 

That part of the life and ministry of Francis As- 
bury which fell to him in England furnishes a vantage 
for studying the character, equipment, and work of 
the early Methodist preacher. Certainly the whole 
history of the Wesleyan revival affords no better il- 
lustration of the discipleship which through the Spirit 
and under the leadership of a "fellow of Lincoln 
College" brought its wonders to pass. 

The early Methodist preacher was not as the Meth- 
odist preacher of to-day, though happily the likeness 
in spiritual simplicity and zeal — if still too much an 
exception — is not wholly wanting in the modern itin- 
erant, nor is he entirely a stranger to the early rule 
of life and service. With rare exceptions, the early 
Methodist preacher was a layman, and that without 
hope of graduating through a quadrennial course of 
study into clerical orders. His sole ecclesiastical au- 
thority was a license from Mr. Wesley to preach in 
the chapels which he held for the use of the people 
called Methodists. Generally, too, this preacher was 
a man of little culture, who had come out of social 
obscurity, and the evidence of whose call was to be 
found in his own testimony, zeal, and success. 

The early Methodist preachers, as regarded their 
relations to Mr. Wesley and the work, were divided 
into two classes — namely, assistants and helpers. The 
assistants were the preachers in charge of circuits, 
while the helpers were those preachers, itinerant or 


32 Francis Asbury. 

local, who served with and under the assistants. The 
significance of the title "assistant" was in the direct 
relation which the bearer of it sustained to Mr. Wes- 
ley, who regarded himself as officially present in each 
of the circuits, and therefore the man actually in 
charge of it was only his assistant. The assistants 
were expected to meet with him in the yearly Confer- 
ences, but it was not obligatory upon the helpers to 
do so. 

The letters, or license, which Wesley gave to his 
preachers were meant to preserve decency and order 
and secure his authority over the assistants and help- 
ers, and, through them, over the societies. No ec- 
clesiastical significance attached to these letters. The 
Methodist Societies were not Churches; their mem- 
bers were supposed to belong to the Church of 
England, and to the priests of that Church they were 
instructed to go for the sacraments. The preaching 
in the chapels and the other meetings of the societies 
were supposed to be appointed for hours which did not 
conflict with the morning and evening services of 
the Church. 

With the exception of the few who were clergymen 
of the Church of England, the preachers who worked 
with Mr. Wesley in England were, as we have seen, 
unordained, and this was also true of the preachers 
in America prior to 1784. To have suggested in As- 
bury's time in England that the United Societies 
would one day proclaim themselves an independent 
Church, and that the preachers would at last accept 
ordination from other hands than those of an Angli- 
can bishop, would have created alarm among even the 
Methodists themselves. By what stretch of his fancy, 

The Wesley an Helper. 33 

then, could Asbury have foreseen himself a Metho- 
dist bishop ? 

It is interesting to note the steps by which Wesley 
was led first to countenance and then to permit lay 
preaching in his societies, and at last to work it into 
his system as one of its cardinal features. The con- 
version of Wesley did not at first greatly modify his 
obstinate High-church views ; but the wisdom nour- 
ished by the experience growing out of it did, so that 
before the end of his life he was completely delivered 
from hierarchical prejudices. He began his itinerant 
work in 1739 in connection with his brother Charles 
and George Whitefield. In an incredibly short time 
the societies had grown beyond the ability of these 
three to supply their needs. The only visible means 
of providing the multiplying converts with spiritual 
bread was in committing to the revival the evangel- 
ical ministers of the Establishment. The number of 
these was limited, and even of that n Limber only a 
few were free to go. The situation raised a question 
which could be answered only from an inscrutable 

About this time a layman violated all precedents, 
and greatly shocked the sensibilities of both the Wes- 
leys by delivering, on his own motion, a public ex- 
hortation immediately following one of Whitefield 's 
fervid discourses in the open. Soon after this — that 
is to say, about the end of 1739 — Thomas Maxfield, 
one of Mr. WesleVs_yonng.. c onverts, offered hims elf 
i q^ serve as _a_so n in the gospel, and to go and do as 
Wesley should direct.—' This offer was accepted not 
without misgivings, the Churchman yielding an evan- 
gelical inch to the new and clamorous necessity. 


34 Francis Asbury. 

Maxfield was given a general leave to exhort — but 
under no conditions to preach! "Soon after," to con- 
tinue the story in Wesley's own words, "came another, 
Thomas Richards; then a third, Thomas WesiaiL" 
It will be noticed that these_ aU_bore _Jhe_name_of 
"Thomas," reversing- tHeTnstory of that disciple who 
doubted. Whatever, indeed, of doubt there was at 
the opening of this dispensation of lay evangelism 
was on the part of "a man whose name was John." 
Wesley did doubt, and, as the final outcome proved, 
concerning the steps which carried him farthest 
toward the success of his mission. 

Again the inevitable happened. Returning to Lon- 
don from one of his tours through the interior, 
Wesley learned that Thomas Maxfield had been 
preaching. The High-churchman in him was doubly 
scandalized, and he meditated putting an end to the 
possibility of a recurrence of the offense by summa- 
rily dismissing the offender. Three things, however, 
caused him to pause and at last reconsider his pur- 
pose : First, his mother's caution in young Maxfield's 
favor; second, the fruit of Maxfield's preaching — 
for men and women had been converted under it; 
and third, his own unanswerable logic — namely, that 
"those who are only called of God, and not of man, 
have more right to preach than those who are only 
called of man and not of God." "It is the Lord," he 
said at last ; "let him do what seemeth good." 

But if Wesley needed a further argument to com- 
plete his conviction, it was su pplied in the case of 
John Nelson^the Yorkshire stone mason, who had "as 
hi gh a spir i t and as brave a heart as ever TEnglisnrnan 
was blessed with," and whose story is one of the 

The Wesleyan Helper. 35 

recorded miracles of Methodism. An early convert 
of Wesley's preaching in London, where he worked 
at his trade, he journeyed back to his native shire 
to tell his kinsmen and neighbors what great things 
had been done for him of heaven. The simple people 
desired him to continue the story from day to day. 
This he did, and multitudes flocked to his door, where 
he sat to talk, and, all before he or his audiences sus- 
pected it, he also .was preaching. Alarmed at what 
had happened, he sent for Wesley. The great leader 
came without delay, sat at the stone mason's fireside, 
saw the throngs that crowded about his door, and 
heard the message which he delivered. The evidence 
that a new dispensation had dawned was overwhelm- 
ing, and the question of lay preaching in Methodism 
was settled for all time. At the death of Wesley, in 
1 79 1, three hundred lay preachers were attached to 
his Conferences in Great Britain, serving seventy-six 
thousand members in society 

Asbury's conversion was his call to be an evangel- 
ist. His first answer was to assemble his youthful 
companions and exhort them to repentance. This 
was followed by the more public step of holding 
meetings in the homes of his father's neighbors. 
These meetings appear to have been begun entirely 
on his own initiative. There was no Methodist 
preaching or oversight of any kind in the parish, or 
perhaps in all that part of Staffordshire. But it has 
been this spontaneity of Methodism that has made it 
effective throughout its era. The flying spark has 
engendered a flame. 

But the zeal of the youthful evangelist was soon to 
be put to test. Persecutions of a serious nature arose. 

36 Francis Asbury. 

As early as 1743, somewhat less than two years before 
Asbury's birth, Wesley himself had been subjected 
to much persecution in Staffordshire, at Wednesbury 
being attacked by a mob, and narrowly escaping 
death. For a year or more a condition of terror ob- 
tained amongst the Methodists in that region. Pe- 
riodically this persecuting spirit revived, and now, 
after seventeen years, it overflowed about the feet 
of the latest convert, a saddler's apprentice in Hands- 
worth parish. The householders under whose roofs 
the youthful exhorter had been permitted to gather 
his rustic audiences became alarmed, and withdrew 
their hospitality. Not discomfited, he began exhort- 
ing in his father's house, and continued to do so for a 
considerable time. Meanwhile he was also meeting 
a class at Bromwich Heath, and attended each week a 
band meeting at Wednesbury, where he had formed 
his first connection with the Methodists. The ex- 
tent of his home labors were, however, not known 
at either of these places, where he was treated as a 
catechumen or probationer. But he was even then 
practicing the rule which made him so great and 
masterful in his work in the New World: as fast as 
he received he gave out. What was imparted to him 
of grace and instruction at Bromwich Heath and 
Wednesbury he quickly carried to his little hearth- 
stone audiences in the cottage home "near the foot 
of Hampstead Bridge." When, therefore, he appeared 
as a licensed exhorter in the Methodist meeting- 
houses at Wednesbury and elsewhere, the surprise 
of the people was great, they not knowing how he 
had been learning and exercising in a prophets' school 
of his own. It must be borne in mind that all this 

The Westeyan Helper. 37 

occurred about the beginning of his seventeenth year. 
It is seldom that this record has been paralleled out- 
side of the Methodist itinerancy. 

When somewhere between his seventeenth and 
eighteenth year Asbury was licensed as a local 
preacher; and although still pursuing his calling as 
a saddler's apprentice, he began to serve as a volun- 
tary helper on circuits in his own and adjoining 
shires. For the space of about five years he contin- 
ued in this relation, and thus finished the term of his 
apprenticeship. He had now reached his majority, 
and was free to make his choice for life. Like the 
Galilean fishermen, he gave up all to follow in the 
footsteps of his Lord. He left the saddler's bench 
to become an itinerant in Mr. Wesley's Conference. 

It is impossible to determine in what circuits and, 
indeed, under what conditions the saddler-preacher 
worked during the five years previous to his entrance 
into the traveling connection. He enumerates cir- 
cuits in Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, and 
Worcestershire as having been visited by him, but 
nothing is said of the time spent upon either or of 
the details of any labors bestowed upon them. But 
though these were neighboring shires, to accomplish 
the visitations named and to preach, as he records he 
oftentimes did, three, four, and even five times a week, 
and attend to his trade was in itself an apostolic labor. 

In 1768 he served his first itinerant year as helper 
on a circuit, or circuits, in Staffordshire and Glouces- 
tershire. The next year, 1769, he traveled in the 
same capacity in Bedfordshire, Sussex, and other 
parts. In the latter end of 1769, this being the begin- 
ning of his third year in the traveling connection, he 

38 Francis Asbury. 

was appointed assistant — that is, he was put in charge 
of a circuit in Northamptonshire. The next year he 
traveled in Wiltshire, but whether as "helper" or "as- 
sistant" the record does not show. The close of this 
itinerant year came with the Conference which met 
at Bristol, in August, 1771, a memorable date in the 
life of Asbury, and also in the history of American 
Methodism. Asbury was just then completing his 
twenty-sixth year. For more than six months pre- 
vious to the meeting of this Conference he had been 
visited by strong intimations that he should offer him- 
self for service in America. With what self-abandon- 
ment he did this, and how he was accepted for that 
far-off field, will be told in another chapter. 

No estimate can be formed of the character of As- 
bury's preaching during his itinerant service in En- 
gland. His journal gives the texts, and often the 
outlines, of more than one hundred sermons preached 
during his ministry of forty-five years in America; 
but not a scrap of any one of his sermons preached 
in his English circuits has been preserved. That they 
were crude at first, but often effective, we have reason 
to believe. Cautiously, and with that reserve with 
which he has sketched the events of his early life, he 
mentions several cases of awakening and conversions 
which followed his preaching. What, however, may 
be safely assumed concerning this early preaching is 
that it was typical of the prevalent Methodist exhor- 
tation. Asbury was thoroughly Wesleyan, and no 
man connected with Wesley ever more completely im- 
bibed his spirit. Not in servile imitation of the great 
leader, but in a careful use of his example, he worked 
out a regimen of habits and industry that in some 

The Wesley an Helper. 39 

points of excellence and practicability went even be- 
yond his model. 

The foundations of Asbury's success and greatness 
as a preacher were laid in England. During the ten 
years of his mixed ministry there he had mastered the 
whole system of Wesleyan Arminianism and had made 
himself acquainted, to a greater or less extent, with 
other theological schools. The great doctrines he had 
explored from the view-point of the naked words of 
the Evangelists and the Pauline Epistles, and his 
faith was grounded in them beyond uprooting or 
change. It is certain, too, that he had read and stud- 
ied much sermonic literature, and, what was still bet- 
ter, he had heard — not occasionally, but often — many 
of the very greatest of England's evangelical preach- 
ers contemporaneous with Wesley. And here abides 
a secret. Those who have heard with appreciation 
and understanding the words and precepts of the 
great can themselves never be less than great in 
their own measure. 

That Asbury during his itinerant service in En- 
gland was in special favor with Wesley seems certain; 
but not even Wesley could have dreamed that in his 
youthful helper was wrapped up the evangelization of 
a continent and the religious leadership of the New 
World. It was providence, wonderful providence, 
that found the Staffordshire saddler and gave him 
this commission. 

Bringing Up the Balance. 

The intellectual redemption of Francis Asbury, 
which began simultaneously with his conversion, il- 
lustrates the tremendous possibilities of life, even 
when it is shut off from the ordinary means of train- 
ing and culture. It also illustrates how nearly self- 
help becomes divine help. 

The ten years which Asbury spent as a local and 
itinerant preacher in England were busy years, and, 
as we have seen, were not without evangelistic fruits ; 
but they were given largely to the bringing up of his 
neglected education. A sense of his intellectual des- 
titution was brought home to him in the hour of his 
regeneration, and was doubly emphasized when he 
heard the call to become an evangelist. He therefore 
went forth into life as one who limped, or whose 
blood lacked the warmth of completeness. He pos- 
sessed the wish, but not the wing, for flight. Not 
only was he humbled by a sense of his literary limi- 
tations, but naturally it became a snare to him, and 
seriously impeded his spiritual development. To these 
limitations he at one time attributed his inability to 
continue in the blessing of perfect love. As late as 
1792 this entry was made in his journal: "While I 
was a traveling preacher in England I was much 
tempted, finding myself exceedingly ignorant of ev- 
erything a minister ought to know.'' This was humil- 
ity in retrospect. 

As the newly made disciple looked from his sad- 

Bringing Up the Balance. 41 

dler's bench down the avenues opened up by his new 
experience, the disparagement of his literary equip- 
ment must have been great. It is the advantage of 
a normally acquired education that it keeps the stu- 
dent's intellectual development abreast of his awaken- 
ing consciousness. There is no painful sense of the 
unattained, mayhap of the unattainable. With those 
in the same case as the Staffordshire saddler, the fact 
is different. The constant manifestation of such a life 
is its consciousness of lack. But this is the inspiration 
of self-help. 

The untutored convert began a double training upon 
himself, and the intellectual results partook of the 
phenomenon of his spiritual regeneration. In the 
midst of his labors as an apprentice and his services 
as a lay helper he laid the foundations of those habits 
of study and inquiry which made him at last a master 
in those lines of knowledge and interpretation most 
necessary to his work as a teacher of men. In self- 
acquired learning there is an inevitable lack of the 
greater breadth, but there is compensation in the in- 
creased mastery of self and the development of pa- 
tience and self-directed industry. Patience and indus- 
try were qualities possessed by Asbury in a most ex- 
traordinary degree. 

After coming to America, Asbury acquired a good 
working knowledge of both the Greek and the Hebrew 
languages. An entry made in his journal in 1777 ac- 
quaints us with the fact that he was reading the 
Scriptures in both these tongues. That was six years 
after his arrival in America. A later entry indicates 
that he was giving an hour each day to the Old Tes- 
tament in Hebrew. It is certain that he got not even 

42 Francis Asbury. 

an elemental start in either of these languages during 
his school days; but he must almost necessarily have 
begun the study of one or both during his days of ap- 
prenticeship in Staffordshire. 

On September 4, 1771, he' took ship for the voyage 
to America. On that day, following the example of 
Wesley and the other great preachers by whom he 
had been influenced, he began to keep a journal. The 
records made in this journal give us the first certain 
chart of his literary goings. During this voyage he 
read a number of books of dignified titles. His com- 
ments upon these and upon other related matters be- 
tray a mental purpose and a clearness of philosophical 
perception that would hardly be looked for in a man 
of only six and twenty years, and especially one who 
had enjoyed so little training, and who had from his 
twelfth to' his twenty-first year been first a gentle- 
man's servant and then a saddler's apprentice. But 
somehow the busy rustic had found time to force his 
mind into habits of concentration, and had thus led 
captive the captivity of his own life. 

Wesley himself fixed a standard for those plain, 
"brown-bread" preachers who came to him through 
so strange an ordering of providence. To these he 
spoke plainly when he said: "Reading alone can sup- 
ply depth to preaching, with meditation and daily 
prayer." To help to this end he set a rule for his 
preachers : "Fix some part of every day for private 
exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have 
not. What is tedious at first will afterwards be pleas- 
ant. Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily. 
It is for you life. There is no other way ; else you 
will be a trifler all your clays and a pretty superficial 

Bringing Up the Balance. 43 

preacher. Do justice to your own soul; give it time 
and means to grow ; do not starve yourself any 

This rule of the leader of Methodism had trans- 
formed many a dull and clodlike recruit into a lively 
and effective witness before its efficiency was tested 
by Francis Asbury ; but it may well be believed that in 
no other case did it work such large, such surprising 
results. Happily, this is not man's expedient ; but is, 
in truth, the leaven of the royal Loaf Giver, and is 
still working, and working well, in the men of the 
newer generations, many of whom, like their earlier 
predecessors, have been called from lowly and untu- 
tored lives. 

Few of Mr. Wesley's preachers imbibed so thor- 
oughly as did this Staffordshire helper his catholic 
taste in literature ; and while Asbury's literary sym- 
pathy and versatility are not to be compared with 
Wesley's, they were nevertheless unusual in one com- 
ing from the ranks to which he belonged. A. cata- 
logue of the books mentioned in Asbury's journal as 
having been read by him, and often reread and care- 
fully studied, would run considerably above one hun- 
dred titles, and these by no means describe the ex- 
tent of his excursions into the world of books. 
Amongst the volumes mentioned are not a few clas- 
sics. The titles also cover in general the subjects of 
poetry, history, politics, biography, philosophy, and 
theology. A stray volume on etiquette is mentioned 
as having been perused, and the State papers of more 
than one publicist were also carefully studied. Of 
course, it could but be expected that works of theolo- 
gy, sermonology, and devotion should predominate in 

44 Francis Asbury. 

this catalogue, for he was that servant who counted 
the wisdom and pride of this world as nothing in 
comparison with the knowledge of Christ; and yet 
such was the sanity of his faith and the sympathy of 
his heart that he could see truth outside of those 
channels of thought which seemed to him to be Chris- 
tian as distinguished from those which could only be 
classed as secular or pagan. 

Dr. Strickland, the least critical of Asbury's biog- 
raphers, says that he was acquainted with the litera- 
ture of Greece and Rome ; but there is little proof of 
this. There are few references in his journal to such 
reading, and the matter and style oi his writings be- 
tray no suggestion of the infectious grace and harmo- 
nies of those Old World masterpieces. There is, in- 
deed, an occasional use made of classic fact and inci- 
dent; but the knowledge evinced in such statements 
came from general rather than special reading. 

To write the whole truth is to say that the limita- 
tions imposed upon Asbury by his lack of early train- 
ing, and which he so much bewailed, showed through 
his whole life. He was forever conscious of this lack, 
and it must be set down to the credit of the spirit that 
always strove within him that this consciousness more 
often turned to humility than to self-assertion, the 
cloak generally employed by little minds to hide their 

The cry of the saddler in the years before 1771, be- 
wailing his ignorance, was continued as an under- 
breath in the life of the Bishop and apostle of the 
New World. If he seems careful not to disclose 
unnecessarily the humbleness of his beginning and his 
early relations, he never once laid claim to being what 

Bringing Up the Balance. 45 

he was not, nor ever sought to appear other than the 
lowly disciple of a lowly Master. The sign is here 
of a greatness that no absence of the finish of the 
schools can discount. 

For his attainment in letters he paid the price of 
prodigious industry; and even this had been insuffi- 
cient except for his plan of work and study. His 
habit, when not traveling, was to rise at four o'clock 
each morning and, after prayer and meditation, spend 
two hours in reading and study. After that came a 
season of recreation and conversation, and then the 
fuller toils and open duties of the day. He was awake 
sixteen hours out of the twenty-four, ten of which he 
gave to reading and study. When on his travels he 
carried his library either in his saddlebags or in a 
small chest stowed in the boot of his chaise or sulky 
Like Mr. Wesley, he knew the art of reading while 
traveling either in his carriage or on horseback. It 
was a fixed rule with him to read a minimum of one 
hundred pages daily. Both the purpose and the en- 
durance of Atlas must have been necessary to sup- 
port through the ceaseless changes of his days a 
task like that. 

A nineteenth century Methodist historian quotes the 
statement that the ex-saddler had courted the poetic 
muse, and that the results of his rhyming exercises 
eventually made a bulky manuscript, which the author 
once thought of printing, but which, on the frank ad- 
vice of a discreet friend, he with his own hands com- 
mitted to oblivion. It is not difficult to imagine the 
type of verse that would come from that serious and 
unimaginative pen. But the fact of such essays is not 
without significance. Sir Philip Sidney declared that 

46 Francis Asbury. 

so great was his reverence for poetry that he counted 
no time spent upon it as lost ; that though the poetry 
itself might be poor, the spirit that promped it and the 
exercise of producing it could only be worthy and 
helpful. But however this principle might apply, the 
action of the embryo Bishop in ruthlessly destroying 
the offspring of his muse can only be thought of as 
one of characteristic soberness and good judgment. 
The story as told is too circumstantial to be apocry- 
phal. To repeat it may serve a useful end. It will 
doubtless suggest to many the existence in the soul 
of that serious and unworldly man of sentiments hith- 
erto unsuspected. Did he who was forsworn to lone- 
liness and wifeless devotion to duty still find some 
abstract beauty or ideal of life upon which to lavish, 
in whatever imperfect note or numbers, the loyalty 
and worship of his chaste and chivalrous heart? Or 
did he, like some hermit priest, weave his reverent 
fancies into nuptial strophes to be laid at the feet of 
the Bride, the Church ? At least those rhythmic hours 
had their place in the making of the man and the 
soul of patience and love that crowned his life ; and 
the chronicler has fulfilled his office in preserving 
the story. 

"It is needless to assess Asbury's intellect," says 
that most discriminating historian, Fitchett, whom we 
have already quoted. No more is it worth the while 
to attempt to discover by what processes he came to 
that repletion of personal force and equipment with 
which he entered upon his work in America. His 
appearance upon the stage of his future activitv was 
like the sudden showing to Israel of John the Baptist. 
The first sight of him was of a man made perfect for 

Bringing Up the Balance. 47 

his work. But when, where, and how ? The perfected 
force was not an evolution per saltnm, nor the re- 
peated miracle of brain-born Athena; but the product 
of beaten fiber and of cranial gray matter whose at- 
tritions were those of the upper and the nether mill- 
stone. The uttered thoughts of the man showed the 
striations of the unrecorded concentrations and men- 
tal efforts of the awakened youth who had responded 
absolutely to the call of his destiny. 

His final response to that destiny was made on 
August 7, 1 771. Being on that day within two weeks 
of completing his twenty-sixth year, he went up to 
the Conference at Bristol and offered himself as a 
missionary to North America. Others had offered 
also; but Wesley, though he but dimly perceived the 
wisdom of his selection, gave commission to the 
youngest member of the group of applicants. With 
a fellow-helper, Richard Wright, he went forth on 
a pilgrimage that was to lead him not across the seas 
only, but, at last, over untracked wildernesses and 
through distant years to the attainment of "goals un- 

Just one month later — that is to say, on September 
4., 1771 — the two missionaries embarked for their long 
voyage. Asbury suffered greatly from seasickness, 
which was, no doubt, aggravated by the poor provi- 
sions made for his comfort on the voyage. The Meth- 
odists of Bristol had provided money for the passage 
of the missionaries, but had neglected to provide beds ; 
and as the vessel was a freight or merchant ship, its 
cabin accommodations were limited to its officers. 
The missionaries, therefore, were reduced to the ne- 
cessity of sleeping upon the cabin floor, with no cover- 

48 Francis Asbury. 

ing except a pair of blankets each, which they for- 
tunately had in their outfits. With reading, medita- 
tion, and daily prayers, and with occasional preaching 
to the sailors on the groaning decks, they finished a 
trying and tempestuous voyage of fifty-three days. On 
September 12, being the eighth day after the begin- 
ning of the voyage, Asbury made this entry in his 
journal : "I will set down a few things that lie on 
my mind. Whither am I going ? To the New World. 
What to do? To gain honor? Not if I know my 
own heart. To get money? No; I am going to live 
to God, and bring others so to do. If God does 

not acknowledge me in America, I will soon return to 
England. I know my views are upright now. May 
they never be otherwise !" 

This was the saddler's apprentice twelve years after 
his conversion ; this was the destined apostle, who, 
unaided save by help divine, had brought up that 
which was lacking in his mental preparation to com- 
plete his fitness for the apostolate upon which he was 
now so soon to enter. 


A Voice in the Wilderness. 

The first springing of Methodism in America was 
so thoroughly a matter of providence that even the 
date is uncertain. It is known, however, that early 
in the second half of the eighteenth century — some 
say in 1760 — Robert Strawbridge, an Irish local 
preacher who had emigrated to Maryland, sowed the 
seeds in that colony. In 1766 Philip Embury, another 
local preacher from Ireland, but the son of a native 
of the Palatinate, with the aid of Captain Webb of 
His Majesty's troop, planted the cause in New York. 
A little later Captain Webb visited Philadelphia, then 
the most important city on the continent, where his 
labors issued in the organization of a Methodist 

From the first the soil of the New World proved 
friendly to the Wesleyan doctrines, and such was their 
spread that laborers from the mother country were 
soon in demand to reenforce the volunteer evangelists. 
The English Wesleyan Conference, which met at 
Leeds in 1769, appointed Richard Boardman and 
Joseph Pilmoor to the work in America, Boardman 
being named assistant in charge. The mighty cir- 
cuit, which now comprises nearly three hundred An- 
nual Conferences and approximately eight millions of 
Methodist communicants, probably had then not above 
three hundred members in society. 

Two years later — that is, on October 27, 1771 — 
Francis Asbury debarked at Philadelphia from his long 
4 (49) 

50 Francis Asbury. 

trans-Atlantic voyage. With the arrival of Asbury 
the history of American Methodism really begins. At 
a glance the new helper saw that the policy being 
pursued by Boardman would never evangelize the 
country. Boardman was deficient in resources and 
leadership, and had no power of initiative. His spirit 
was missionary, but he had little talent for evangelistic 
movement. The handful of preachers under him 
were largely cooped up in the cities of New York and 
Philadelphia. Asbury burned with itinerant zeal. His 
ideal was a thoroughly disciplined body of gospel ran- 
gers going far and wide, preaching as they went. He 
would bring about the conquest of the continent 
through the foolishness of preaching. The future 
miracle of America's evangelization was pent within 
his peasant soul, and struggled to manifest itself while 
yet he stood at the threshold of his new destiny. To 
his ideal and to his tireless labors to realize it the 
Church owes the itinerancy He was the first of the 
preachers in America to form and regularly travel a 

Within two weeks of his arrival on the continent 
he had preached a number of times in Philadelphia, 
and had traveled the entire distance to New York on 
horseback, preaching as he went in Pennsylvania, the 
Jerseys, and on Staten Island. Thus he set at once 
the pace which he kept for nearly half a century as 
an American itinerant. 

General Assistant Boardman appointed the new- 
comer to labor as his associate for three months in 
New York City. It was just sixteen days after his 
arrival in America that he preached for the first time 
in the pulpit of Embury's Chapel. Besides Boardman 

A Voice in the Wilderness. 51 

he found Captain Webb in the city, and almost imme- 
diately expressed his disapproval of the waste of labor. 
Three preachers shut up for a whole winter to the 
charge of a single congregation ! He would not con- 
sent to see it. In his journal he poured out his soul in 
these words : "I have not yet the thing which I seek — 
a circulation of the preachers. I am fixed to 

the Methodist plan." 

"Circulation" was his watchword. And he pro- 
ceeded to circulate. Asking permission of no one, 
he struck out, midweeks, through the winter snows 
to build on new foundations. Westchester, "a back 
settlement" town twenty miles from New York, was 
first visited. There and at West Farms he preached 
three times. This was his beginning. Before the 
close of the year, it being then near the middle of 
December, he had revisited Westchester and West 
Farms, had held evangelistic meetings at New Ro- 
chelle, Rye, Eastchester, DeVeau's, and Mamaroneck, 
and had also gone again over his earlier plantings on 
Staten Island. During January he enlarged this cir- 
cuit and cultivated it with tireless zeal. But this de- 
votion was not without cost. Exposure to the rigor- 
ous winter brought on a variety of ailments, the first 
of those bodily afflictions from which he suffered dur- 
ing his long service in America. A little constrained 
rest brought him relief, and by the end of February 
he was able to set off for a preaching tour through 
New Jersey. This journey, filled with evangelistic 
incidents, ended at Philadelphia early in April, when 
the first quarterly meeting for the year was held. 

Asbury's example had perceptibly stirred the breth- 
ren, and especially Boardman. Large plans were laid 

52 Francis Asbury. 

for the next year. Each preacher was given a pros- 
pective circuit and instructed to cultivate all the land 
possible. Wright was to go to New York, Pilmoor 
was to move on the South (Maryland and Delaware), 
Asbury was to have Philadelphia as a cure, and Board- 
man was to take New England. Boardman did go 
as far north as Providence, and there is a tradition 
that he also visited Boston ; but he was hardly the man 
to leave ineffaceable footprints in so naturally unre- 
sponsive a land. That honor was reserved for a na- 
tive son of Methodism. 

The entire preaching force of Methodism in Ameri- 
ca at this time consisted of nine men — namely, Rich- 
ard Boardman (General Assistant), Joseph Pilmoor, 
Francis Asbury, Richard Wright, Philip Embury, 
Robert Strawbridge, Captain Webb, Robert Williams 
(who had come over by consent of Mr. Wesley in 
1769), and John King, a local preacher licensed in 
America. As Asbury contemplated the plan for se- 
curing an early circulation of the preachers from the 
centers to the peripheries, he took courage and went 
about his task. 

St. George's Church, the Methodist meetinghouse 
in Philadelphia, had been bought from a Dutch con- 
gregation unable to maintain it. It was a pretentious 
structure for that time. This led to its being called 
"the Methodist Cathedral." The property was en- 
cumbered with a considerable debt, which Asburv un- 
dertook to raise. There were a number of preaching 
places attached to the charge, and to these the busv 
itinerant added enough to make his preaching engage- 
ments at least one each day. Often he preached three 
times during the hours between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. On 

A Voice in the Wilderness. 53 

a special tour he rode as far southward as Wilming- 
ton, Delaware, and Bohemia Manor, in the province 
of Maryland, preaching as he went, preaching as he 
returned. In barns, in taverns, in courthouses, in 
prisons, at public executions, and in the open he pro- 
claimed a present salvation. Nor was his way always 
smooth. Not only all but impassable roads, but in- 
different and persecuting hearts of men, impeded his 
progress. Yet of Bereans he found not a few, and 
had cheer without as within. Returning homeward, 
his soliloquy was : "I humbly hope that about seven 
preachers of us will spread seven or eight hundred 
miles, and preach in as many places as we are able 
to attend." Modest as that hope now appears, it was 
then the expression of a confidence nothing short of 

Asbury was a Wesleyan — a rigid disciplinarian — 
and gave offense to the Philadelphians in his require- 
ment of obedience to the rules of society. There were 
loud objections against his administration; but he met 
criticism calmly, read an epistle from Mr. Wesley ap- 
proving his course, entered his own reflections in his 
journal, and persevered as he had begun. 

It was, no doubt, well for those heroic men and 
their causes that they were not permitted to continue 
in one stay. After an incumbency of one quarter, 
Asbury was called away from his troubles in Phila- 
delphia to new ones in New York City. Thither he 
carried his methods of discipline vised in his former 
charge, reenforcing them, as before, with the letter 
of Mr. Wesley His predecessor s policy had pro- 
duced much confusion. Neglect of class meeting re- 
strictions had been encouraged, even worldliness had 

54 Francis Asbury. 

not, as he judged, been properly rebuked, and these 
tendencies he set himself to correct. Steadily, firmly 
he moved toward the standard which he had set. 
Sharp contests arose between him and his officials; 
but he kept his serenity, as also his purpose, and, as 
was his wont, committed himself only to his journal. 

These vexatious concerns kept him much employed 
in the city; still he found time to swing out over his 
former "back country" field, including the region of 
New Roehelle and the Staten Island district. In the 
midst of these varying experiences he was cheered 
by news of a great spiritual and temporal prosperity 
being enjoyed by the society in Philadelphia. So 
early, indeed, had his zeal for order and discipline 
been justified. The faithful word of correction re- 
jected at first had at last been heeded and had yielded 
the peaceable fruits of righteousness. 

He was just turning his twenty-seventh year, and 
was also nearing the end of his quarter in New York, 
when an important letter came from Mr. Wesley. The 
inevitable had happened. That letter announced to 
Asbury his appointment to be General Assistant of 
the work in America. Mr. Wesley in sending Asbury 
out had, no doubt, designed his advancement to this 
responsibility. If he had not, a single year had shown 
him the advantage of the appointment. Boardman 
lacked the qualities which his younger colaborer pos- 
sessed in so remarkable a degree. 

Near the end of October, 1772, Asbury started 
northward by stage to meet Mr. Boardman. Their 
conference was held at Princeton, the seat of the his- 
toric Presbyterian college. The precincts of colleges 
and universities were sacred ground to Asbury, peas- 

A Voice in the Wilderness. 55 

ant-bred and diplomaless though he was. If he was 
possessed of a single worldly ambition, it was that of 
being the founder of a real college for his people, and 
possibly the failure to realize this purpose was the 
chief disappointment of his life. It was natural, 
therefore, that he should improve his stay in Prince- 
ton by visiting the college and its pious ex-President, 
the venerable Mr. Davies. 

Boardman accepted the promotion of his youthful 
colleague in a spirit of loyalty. He had, no doubt, 
anticipated it ; but there was certainly at this time 
not enough worldly distinction in the position to make 
the attainment of it a matter of ambition or the loss 
of it an occasion for rancor. Whatever his feeling, 
Boardman certainly behaved well, and reflected credit 
upon himself and his calling. After a brief consul- 
tation, the preachers were stationed, Asbury designa- 
ting himself to labor for six months in Maryland. 

To no man so much as to Francis Asbury is Mary- 
land indebted for early gospel seed sowing. To 
Maryland he gave the best labors of his life and an 
extraordinary measure of patriotic affection. His 
best beloved and forever loyal friends were those 
generous Maryland gentlefolk who had welcomed 
to their boards the blameless and unworldly youth 
whose only passion was the love of souls. During 
all those homeless years in which he journeyed up and 
down the continent he counted Maryland his home, and 
it was according to his wish that his dust found sepul- 
ture at last in the soil he loved. 

Every condition at this time made Maryland the 
most inviting field for Methodism in all America. Its 
people were agreed on no hard and fast creed like 

56 Francis Asbury. 

that which made New England an impervious solidar- 
ity. Roman Catholicism and the English Church 
largely divided the population. Bodies of Huguenots 
and communities of dissenters also mingled in the 
general mass. But Anglicanism dominated, and An- 
glicanism was the native soil of Methodism. Yet 
even the Established Church was poorly supplied with 
priests. There were parish lines, but few churches. 
Probably not more than a dozen parsons could have 
been counted in the entire colony, and of these not 
above two or three had more than a show of piety. 
The people were either rich or well to do. Many 
large estates, with palatial manors and country homes, 
dotted the fertile districts. Tobacco, then perhaps the 
most profitable commodity known to commerce, was 
the chief product. Slaveholding had created, or per- 
haps had attracted from the other colonies and the 
mother country, a wealthy aristocracy. Abundant 
wealth was matched with refinement, polite manners, 
and excessive worldliness, not to sav wickedness. The 
sins imported from England had mingled vanity with 
indigenous recklessness. Yet except in certain centers 
there was present little of that deadly deism which 
had withered the religious life of England and France 
during the first half of the century. But if there was 
no great prejudice against religion, there was no exhi- 
bition of zeal in its favor. The land waited for the 
coming of the reformers. 

Toward this missionary Phthia Asbury turned his 
face. In company with Robert Strawbridge, who had 
already laid out a principality in the southern reaches 
of the colony, he left Philadelphia about the end of 
October, with Bohemia Manor as an objective. This 

A Voice in the Wilderness. 57 

had been a favorite stopping place of Whitefield's. It 
was a seat of colonial chivalry and the key to Mary- 
land. Here was the habitat of the Bayards, the Bou- 
chelles, and the Herseys, great names in the history 
of the colony, and not unknown to the citizenship of 
the later sovereignty. 

The journey southward was a continuous gospel 
call. Daily — at the gates of prisons, at the doors of 
comfortable homes, in schoolhouses, in family circles, 
by the river and bay sides, to friends, to strangers, to 
masters, to slaves — the tireless itinerant opened the 
Word of life. Two entries made in his journal at this 
time will give an idea of his audiences : 

"November 1. — After preaching at H's in the morn- 
ing, I intended preaching in the schoolhouse in the 
evening; but it would not contain half the people, so 
I stood at the door and the people without." 

"November 4. — This evening I had a very solemn 
family meeting, and spoke separately and privately to 
every one, both black and white." 

From Bohemia Manor he pressed on through 
Northern and Western Maryland, preaching and ex- 
horting daily, and praying in the homes which he 
entered. The fruits were large, though a measure of 
real persecution was experienced. The following 
journal notes will illustrate the variable fortunes of 
the itinerary : 

"November 5. — Unexpectedly found the people at 
two o'clock waiting to hear the Word. I preached 
with liberty, and the power of God was felt in the 
hearts of many, though some of them were principal 

"November 19. — A poor, unhappy man abused me 

58 Franc's Asbury. 

much on the road ; he cursed, swore, and threw stones 
at me. But I found it my duty to talk to him and show 
him his danger." 

"December 3. — Preached at James Pressbury's to 
many people who could feel the Word, and with much 
power in my own soul. Then rode three miles into 
the Neck, and had a solemn and heart-affecting time 
while preaching from Rev. ii. 11." 

"December 6. — Went about five miles to preach in 
our first preaching house. The house had no win- 
dows or doors, the weather was cold, so that my 
heart pitied the people when I saw them so exposed. 
Putting a handkerchief over my head, I preached, and 
after an hour's intermission, the people waiting all 
the time in the cold, I preached again." 

In Kent County Asbury was met by one .ZEneas 
Ross, a priest of the Established Church, who forbade 
him to preach anywhere within the limits of his parish. 
Asbury's answer was mild ; but he denied the legality 
of such an interdict. The rejoinder of the priest was 
imperious, not to say insulting, whereupon the lay rep- 
resentative of the Reverend John Wesley informed the 
Churchman that he had come into those parts to 
preach, and preach he would without regard to the 
inhibition. Thereupon the parson pushed a contro- 
versy upon the visitor, and got the worst of it, which 
greatly delighted the people of the parish, who cared 
little for the parson's ministry, and paid their tobacco 
tithe only because it was levied by law. Asbury 
preached on the spot, not once, but twice, and many 
great people of the county heard the tidings gladly. 

After six weeks the itinerant had completed the 
round of his extended circuit, and was back, having 

A Voice in the Wilderness. 59 

traveled not less than three hundred miles, and hav- 
ing preached probably no fewer than one hundred 
sermons and delivered as many exhortations. 

On December 23, 1772, was held in the Maryland 
Circuit the first quarterly meeting in America of 
which we have a definite account. It was certainly 
the first worthy the name, those quarterly gatherings 
called by Boardman during the previous year being 
merely informal interviews at which he announced the 
assignment of his helpers. This meeting was discipli- 
nary and fiscal, and permanent notes of its proceedings 
were kept. The characters of the preachers and ex- 
horters were examined, the quarterage was divided, 
and Asbury strictly interpreted the rules for the con- 
duct of the work. It was at this meeting- that he 
formally disapproved of Strawbridge's course in as- 
suming to administer the sacraments. He undertook 
to put the Irishman under the rule ; but Strawbridge 
would not yield the point, and Asbury was constrained 
to tolerate the innovation. This was the germ of the 
historic "sacramental controversy," which came so 
near disrupting the American societies some years 

Five helpers were present at this meeting. The 
colony of Maryland outside of Baltimore and contig- 
uous points was divided amongst the helpers, Asbury 
reserving to himself the city and its neighborhood. 
Baltimore was at this time an important continental 
port, with probably six thousand population. The 
General Assistant was even then able to divine some- 
thing of its future importance to Methodism. 

On Christmas day, 1772, Asbury made his first entry 
into Baltimore. That was exactly fourteen years be- 

60 Francis Asbury. 

fore his consecration to the episcopacy. From that 
day to the end of his life his name was closely asso- 
ciated with the religious life of the city. 

There had been Methodist preaching in Baltimore 
before Asbury's time. John King had preached there 
in 1770, and in 1772 both Pilmoor and Boardman vis- 
ited it in their rounds. It is claimed on good authority 
that the first society was organized in Baltimore in 
June, 1772. Asbury preached there for the first time 
January 3, 1773, to a large congregation, and with 
decided effect. The society was revived and strength- 
ened, and in due time the foundations of the first chap- 
el were laid. 

As might be expected, Baltimore City served Asbury 
only as a base of operation. From January until the 
end of March he was putting in every day not neces- 
sary to be spent in Baltimore in evangelizing through 
a wide reach of adjacent country. Not a few fami- 
lies whose names have become historic in Methodism 
were at this time gathered into the societies in Mary- 
land over which he had immediate charge. By the 
end of the year the members in society in the colony 
numbered five hundred, being one-half of all the Meth- 
odists on the American continent. 

The winter was an exceptionally rigorous one, and 
Asbury's bodily ailments were aggravated by his con- 
stant exposure in travel. Also disturbing news came 
from the North — from New York and Philadelphia. 
Trouble was at hand. Human jealousies were at work 
amongst the saints. The youthful overseer had pro- 
voked the opposition of his older subordinates. Mr. 
Pilmoor was in an unbrotherly mood. Perhaps Mr. 
Boardman was secretly and humanly jealous. Per- 

A Voice in the Wilderness. 61 

haps Asbury had been unduly rigid in administration ; 
he was reticent and secretive by nature, and had not 
taken the brethren into his confidence. Necessity dic- 
tated a course, and he had followed it. The future 
"episcopos" was being shadowed forth. 

Mr. Wesley had been written to ; both sides had 
written. This correspondence had created a condi- 
tion which must be met. Besides, a lust for numbers 
had tempted the brethren in the Northern stations to 
again relax the disciplinary class rules. Asbury de- 
termined to correct the trouble in person, and pre- 
pared to ride northward on an official visitation. A 
journal entry made at this time is significant: 

"March 8. — Rose this morning with a determination 
to fight or die ; and spent an hour in earnest prayer. 
Lord, keep me ever watchful." 

A second quarterly meeting for the Maryland Cir- 
cuit was called and held at Susquehanna March 29. 
The work was found to be prosperous, and every- 
thing was set in order Strict obedience to discipline 
was again demanded. Strawbridge had already agreed 
to desist from administering the sacraments, and a 
good understanding obtained. The helpers were again 
assigned, and Asbury proceeded, after a brief time, 
on his visitation to the disturbed societies in New 
York and Philadelphia. From the middle of April 
to the first of June he spent his time between these 
two cities, enforcing discipline or earnestly endeavor- 
ing to do so, according to the Wesleyan standard, and 
evangelizing in the intermediate regions. 

Naturally this was to him a time of great stress and 
concern ; but his journal breathes a spirit of confi- 
dence and serene courage ; and it is doubtful if at any 

62 Francis Asbury. 

period of his ministry lie was more active or preached 
with more evangelical force and effectiveness. Per- 
haps in this there was a conservation of grace, a prov- 
idential filling up of his powers of soul and mind, 
for immediately before him was the season of his 
life's supremest test. 

Under the Stress of Discipline. 

The American societies needed the superintendency 
of an experienced disciplinarian and organizer. This 
Wesley read from the somewhat conflicting corre- 
spondence which came to him from the field. The oral 
representations of Captain Webb, who had gone to 
England to plead for more missionaries, also helped 
him to this conclusion. It was agreed that a leader, 
or leaders, should be supplied. Webb asked for Chris- 
topher Hopper and Joseph Benson, great lights of the 
Wesleyan Conference; but Wesley could spare neither. 
After some delay, Thomas Rankin, a skilled adminis- 
trator, a man of mature years, one of Wesley's trusted 
lieutenants, and who had also seen military service 
with the king's armies, was sent over to take charge 
of the work in America. Asbury had thus, in his turn, 
an opportunity to show with what grace he could ac- 
cept a successor. He met Mr. Rankin in Philadelphia 
on June 3, 1773, and received him with great cordiality. 
Beyond a doubt, it was a relief to be eased of a burden 
which had sorely weighed him down. 

Asbury was not greatly impressed with Rankin's 
preaching, of which he had an early sample ; but he 
found no occasion to doubt that as a disciplinarian he 
would "fill his place." Of how he filled his place, As- 
bury's journal during the next few years tells an inter- 
esting, if still a very humanlike, story. 

The new General Assistant took up the work with 
spirit and vigor. Almost his first official act was to 


64 Francis Asbury. 

call a conference of the preachers. The sitting began 
in St. George's Church, Philadelphia, on July 14, I773> 
and was continued for two days. Ten preachers were 
present, two of them being George Shadford and 
Joseph Yearbry, who had come over with Rankin 
under appointment from Mr. Wesley. One thousand 
one hundred and sixty members were reported in 
society, being an increase of nearly four hundred per 
cent in a little more than two years. A tremendous 
testimony that to the labors and example of Asbury ! 

This was the first American Conference. Previous 
to this the preachers had met only in quarterly meet- 
ings; but now began that series of yearly gatherings 
of the itinerants that have created so unique and im- 
portant a literature, and exercised so vast an influence 
an promoting the growth of Methodism. 

The disciplinary strictness of Rankin's presidency 
at this Conference gave Asbury much satisfaction ; and 
naturally, for it emphasized his own rulings and con- 
tentions during the two previous years. The categor- 
ical record recites that "the old Methodist doctrine and 
discipline shall be enforced." A decree also went out 
against those "who manifested a desire to abide in 
the cities and live like gentlemen." That this was 
meant to have pointed reference to Boardman and 
Pilmoor, there is abundant evidence ; nor did either 
Rankin or Asbury have any desire to conceal the fact. 
The administration of that year was free from dis- 

Asbury had triumphed in his successor. He was 
full of serenity and confidence, and to add to his com- 
posed state of mind, he had probably, as the retiring- 
superintendent of the work, been permitted to name 

Under the Stress of Discipline. 65 

his own field of labor. He chose Baltimore, where he 
had left so many great plans unrealized, and from 
which he had been absent but three months. For 
helpers in Maryland, he had Robert Strawbridge, 
Abraham Whitworth, and Joseph Yearbry. He was 
now to see the fulfillment of his hope, expressed in 
1772 — namely, "about seven preachers spread seven 
or eight hundred miles," and preaching in as many 
places as they were able to attend. 

Within the first two hours following the adjourn- 
ment of the Conference Asbury was in the saddle and 
on his way toward Bohemia Manor. That night he 
preached at Chester, and daily thereafter in places to 
the southward. On July 18, two days after the close 
of the Conference, he made this entry in his journal : 
"My soul has enjoyed great peace this week, in which 
I have ridden near one hundred miles since my de- 
parture from Philadelphia, and have preached often, 
and sometimes great solemnity has rested on the con- 

The first quarterly meeting in Maryland was held 
a fortnight after Asbury's arrival. It was marked by 
no important event, except Straw bridge's recalcitrancy 
in the matter of the sacraments. He would not rec- 
ognize the authority of the Conference to either estop 
or regulate him. A free-souled Irishman, before his 
conversion he had been a Calvinistic dissenter in sym- 
pathy, and he did not share the High-church prejudices 
of his English brethren. The arguments so strong 
with them weighed nothing with him. Asbury could, 
therefore, do no more than his predecessors had done 
— leave the honest independent alone. Asbury did not 
know it then ; perhaps he did not recognize it after - 


66 Francis Asbury. 

wards — for he regarded Strawbridge as "a weak and 
irregular instrument" — but it was the courage and in- 
dependent honesty of men like Strawbridge, united to 
his own love of order and discipline, that gave so dis- 
tinctly an American and democratic spirit to the Con- 
ference of 1784 — the one that gave to the New World 
its most characteristic ecclesiasticism. 

Immediately after the quarterly meeting Asbury re- 
paired to Baltimore, where he began a campaign which 
soon made that city the center not only of the Metho- 
dism of Maryland, but of the Methodism of the Con- 
tinent. New York and Philadelphia had at this time 
each but a single house for Methodist worship. Bal- 
timore had already in the previous year laid the foun- 
dations of the famous old Strawberry Alley Chapel, 
and during this year completed the far more famous 
house in Lovely Lane, in which the Christmas Con- 
ference was later held; and in which Asbury was elect- 
ed and consecrated to the episcopacy. 

The circuit which Asbury and his helpers traveled 
in 1773 contained fully thirty preaching places. Be- 
sides these, the Assistant added to his own itinerary 
innumerable stops and detours, each of which ended 
in a prayer, an exhortation, or a sermon. The journal 
record of his goings is a ceaseless, tireless cry from 
day to day, from dawn to night, save for those days, 
weeks, and often fortnights, in which the ague and 
burning fevers, caused by malarial poisoning, pros- 
trated him and made going impossible. Fully one- 
third of the time from midsummer, 1773, to January, 
1774, he was confined to his bed in some plantation 
house, or in some tavern by the way, and during the 
first half of the next year he suffered scarcely less. 

Under the Stress of Discipline. 67 

Surely, never was martyr more indifferent to life! 
With fevers not wholly abated, weak, faint, and with 
flesh and muscle flaccid from impoverished blood and 
depleted tissue, he would mount his horse and ride 
through drenching rains and miasmatic fogs, or what- 
ever other vicissitudes the seasons brought. He was 
a voice, and in weakness or in strength, in pain or in 
joy, the cry was the same. 

He hungered for perfection ; but was beset by con- 
scious frailties, and embarrassed by limitations which 
he labored to remove. Often he thought himself near 
the goal of completeness, but, admonished by an intro- 
spection, he drew back to fight another stage. This 
recurring record would, if that document possessed 
no other value, render his journal priceless as a test 
both of the doctrine and the experience of Christian 

Methodism in and about Baltimore advanced rapidly 
during this year. There was a continuous revival, 
though the modern protracted meeting was unknown. 
Six services were held, on an average, each week in 
and about the city. The quarterly meetings were sea- 
sons of exceptional interest and power. Asbury at- 
tended these in person, and to at least one of them 
Rankin lent the additional interest of his presidency. 

Probably a thousand people were this year converted 
under the preaching of Asbury and his helpers. The 
members in society in Maryland increased from five 
hundred to nearly eleven hundred. At the next Con- 
ference the widely scattered plantations and villages 
showed a sufficient Methodist population to warrant 
the organization of three separate circuits in the 

68 Francis Asbury. 

The personal ministry of Asbury, who had learned 
his manners in service and who had received his bap- 
tism and call in a cotter's barn, made fresh inroads 
upon the polite and godless people whose estates were 
embraced within his vast circuit. Mr. Harry Dorsey 
Gough, Captain Charles Ridgeley, and Mr. Carroll, 
wealthy planters and influential men in the colony, 
were amongst his hearers. Captain Ridgeley became 
an early convert, and Mr. Gough and his wife, though 
slow to yield, were sometime afterwards blessed with 
pentecostal experiences, and became the leaders and 
inspirational types of Methodism throughout Mary- 
land. "Perry Hall," the seat of the Goughs, was one 
of the most spacious mansions in America. It was 
situated about a dozen miles from Baltimore, and be- 
came not only a home for Asbury and the other preach- 
ers, but was for years a noted Methodist meeting 
place, its splendid drawing-rooms being thrown open 
for that use. Later a chapel was built upon the estate, 
and enjoyed the distinction of being the first Metho- 
dist chapel in the New World that could boast a bell. 

Philip William Otterbein, of the German Reformed 
ministry, comes frequently into view in the early his- 
tory of American Methodism. He was highly en- 
dowed, a man of learning and exceptional spirituality 
His contact with the Methodists strengthened his natu- 
rally evangelical convictions, and in his work he con- 
stantly employed their methods. Asbury came into 
contact with him during this year, and the attraction 
was mutual. Through Asbury 's influence Otterbein 
was settled with a congregation of the Reformed 
Church in Baltimore, and cooperation between the two 
began from that hour. The result of Otterbein's min- 

Under the Stress of Discipline. 69 

istry in Maryland was the Church of the United Breth- 
ren, an organization which is usually classed with the 
Methodists, and which is so truly Methodistic in spirit 
and doctrine that the classification is only logical. 

The Conference of 1774, the second to be held in 
America, met, as had the first, in St. George's Church, 
Philadelphia. Seventeen preachers were present, and 
it was found that the numbers in society had grown 
to two thousand and seventy-three, an increase of near- 
ly one hundred per cent over the previous year. As 
has already been shown, more than one-half of these 
were reported from Asbury's circuit in Maryland. 

Rankin and Asbury were seldom able to see eye to 
eye. From the first the younger man indorsed in 
qualified terms the fitness of his superior. His admin- 
istrative qualities he took on faith ; but a year of ob- 
servation reduced that faith to the point of evanish- 
ment. The journal of the complainant had, however, 
been silent — significantly so on that point. Asbury 
was religiously honest, and, like the good soldier he 
was, tried to think well of his General. In a way he 
succeeded, and his circumstances aided him to a degree 
in maintaining at least a negative attitude. He was on 
the circuit he preferred, amongst tender-hearted and 
sympathetic friends ; he was in a state of constant 
invalidism, and came only occasionally into relations 
with the military General Assistant. 

The Conference, however, brought them together 
and into conflict. Asbury spoke his mind, and Rankin 
administered affairs with a strong hand, and kept his 
own counsel. In one thing these two did undoubtedly 
agree. The dilettante and time-serving Wright — as 
they judged him to be — was to be sent back to En- 

yo Francis Asbury. 


land. Wright had been Asbury's fellow-missionary 
in 1 771, and there is no evidence that any personal 
issues existed between them; but Asbury, who judged 
and chastened himself, was frank and even-handed 
with others. So Richard Wright was demitted to 
England under censure, implied if not expressed; but 
there is little doubt that both Asbury and Rankin 
judged him overhardly. 

Asbury knew the American field and preachers as 
no other man knew them ; Rankin knew them scarcely 
at all. Asbury, in addition to being naturally a far 
more resourceful leader than the General Assistant, 
knew how the preachers should be stationed ; Rankin 
reasoned how it should be done. The widest differ- 
ence of those two minds was as to where Asbury him- 
self should be appointed. The last place which Asbury 
would have chosen was the one to which Rankin ap- 
pointed him. That place was New York. There was 
a moment of revolt, and Asbury contemplated an im- 
mediate return to England ; but the soldier in him 
quickly triumphed, and he acquiesced and joined in 
the general harmony. The breach between him and 
Rankin, however, became permanent from this mo- 

Besides holding in view Asbury's belief that he was 
contending with Rankin for a policy essential to Meth- 
odism, it must be remembered that at this time he was 
little better than a physical wreck — fever-wasted, nerv- 
ous, and temperamentally distressed by an effort to 
keep up in prolonged sickness a regimen of labors ob- 
viously too much for one in health. About this time 
he wrote : 

"July 14. — I have now been sick near ten months, 

Under the Stress of Discipline. yi 

and many days closer,- confined ; yet I have preached 
about three hundred times, and rode near two thousand 
miles in that time, though very frequently in a high 
fever. Here is no ease, worldly profit, or honor. 
What, then, but the desire of pleasing God and saving 
souls could stimulate to such laborious and painful 
duties ?" 

Still later this more illuminating entry appears in 
his journal : 

"September 18. — Losing some of my ideas in 
preaching, I was ashamed of myself, and pained to 
see the people waiting to hear what the blunderer had 
to say. May these things humble me, and show me 
where my strength lieth !" 

"Asbury was half peasant and half seraph," says 
Fitchett, an estimate which is not discounted in the 
reverent view that modern American Methodists have 
taken of their great forerunner ; but the peasant in 
him was only human — however far off the affinity of 
the seraphic — and the revelation of that human like- 
ness makes his example all the more valuable to his 
spiritual offspring. 

New York, though one of the two earliest fields of 
Methodism in the New World, had proven to be one 
of the least fruitful. It had been Asbury's first Amer- 
ican charge, and there he had had his most harassing 
experiences. There he had contended for discipline 
and "old Methodism," and had withstood, and been 
withstood by, worldly-minded saints. He was, how- 
ever, on his return to a second incumbency, received 
with love and many tokens of appreciation, though 
he was made to realize that the roots of the old re- 
sentment had not been eradicated. 

72 Francis Asbury. 

He was to remain in New York three months ; but 
his health continued so poor, and the prospect of his 
recovery seemed so remote, that his friends and the of- 
ficials of the charge persuaded Mr. Rankin to extend 
the time indefinitely, lest a return to the malarious re- 
gions northward or westward might increase his dis- 
tress. His three months' term was, therefore, extended 
to one of eight months. Credited to most other men, the 
itinerating and evangelizing done during these eight 
months would seem a miracle ; but by him they were 
esteemed as barely worthy of being noted in his 

Maryland was the magnet of his heart during this 
season of distress and submission. There his friends 
were, and there he longed to be. Macedonian hands 
beckoned to him from the shore of every frith and 
bay. Importuning messages invited him to return, 
and that without delay. Influential people even of- 
fered to come and conduct him thither, in spite of 
discipline, if only he said the word ; for the spirit of 
Strawbridge was abroad in the land. 

At the end of the eight months Mr. Rankin request- 
ed him to proceed to Philadelphia. This he did, and 
remained in charge of that important post for three 
months — that is to say, from December 2, 1774. to 
February 22, 1775. At the end of that time he set 
out for Baltimore, possibly with the nominal consent 
of Rankin ; but in reality, it would appear, as the re- 
sult of his own choice and insistency His stay in 
Baltimore at this time covered about sixtv days ; but 
he was much of the time inactive. Perhaps he was 
restrained by friends who saw his need of rest. His 
journal, however, shows that he held not a few meet- 

Under the Stress of Discipline. 73 

ings, that some of them were attended with signal man- 
ifestations of spiritual power, and that they were fruit- 
ful of results. His mind was at rest, and he was con- 
stantly refreshed with the fellowship of his friend 
Otterbein and with visits to "Perry Hall." 

But even amid these agreeable surroundings there 
are evidences that the misunderstanding with Rankin 
was unreconciled. Before his departure from Phila- 
delphia letters had gone from both his own and Ran- 
kin's hands to Mr. Wesley, though Asbury had been 
frank enough to read to his superior the statements 
and complaints which he was sending to England. A 
diplomatic silence obtained, and the Conference ses- 
sion was near at hand. Mr. Wesley would, no doubt, 
the next } r ear have recalled Asbury to be near himself, 
or appointed him to service in the Bahamas ; but a 
tragical and unforeseen providence prevented the re- 
moval from the New World of its destined apostle. 
The American Revolution was already a fact, and in- 
tercourse between the Mother Country and the Colo- 
nies was practically at an end. 

Faith against Swords. 

The Conference of 1775 met, as had those of the 
two previous years, in St. George's Church, Philadel- 
phia. The day of opening — May 17 — fell exactly one 
week later than the date of the opening of the second 
Continental Congress, which had convened in Liberty 
Hall. It is not likely that the patriots who sat in that 
first Capitol of the nation knew of the presence of a 
handful of lay preachers in conference so near their 
own chamber. The thoughts of the publicists were 
concerned with stamp acts, taxation, the rights of 
the Colonies, and the limitations of the royal govern- 
ment. War had not been declared against the mother 
country; but hostilities had already begun, the battle 
of Lexington having occurred in the preceding April. 
The land was filled with rumors of the coming strife, 
and the minds of the people were heavy with appre- 

The first war note found in Asbury's journal is in 
an entry made on April 30, 1775, twenty days before 
the meeting of the Conference. In this entry he says : 
"We have alarming military accounts from Boston, 
New York, and Philadelphia. Surely the Lord will 
overrule, and make these things subservient to the 
spiritual welfare of the Church." There were then 
no steam mail lines, no daily papers, no telegraphs, nor 
telephones. The news traveled slowly, and multiplied 
itself at each stage of advance. Boston Harbor and 
the foot of Bunker Hill were then the scenes of mill- 

Faith against Swords. 75 

tary activity. But Boston was a long way from the 
center of the Methodist world. Northern New Jersey, 
or perhaps Southern Connecticut, was at this time the 
farthest northward range of any of the itinerants. 
Amid the cry of tidings, some true, some exaggerated, 
"the preachers in connection with the Reverend John 
Wesley," many of whom were loyal British subjects, 
had ridden to their gathering in the city soon to be- 
come the birthplace of American liberty. The condi- 
tions were depressing to all, but to none more than to 
Rankin, who in his journal notes the effect upon the 

But one, at least, of the British brethren was calm 
and undisturbed, whatever the prophecy conveyed to 
him by the disjointed times. That was Francis As- 
bury, who from the first seems to have made up his 
mind to stay with the Americans and share their fate. 
In all the entries in his journal which touch upon the 
war, he did not once betray a partisan spirit. Whether 
in England or in America, he had but one fealty, and 
that was to the kingdom of heaven. There, however, 
came a time when he felt, and could express, pride in 
being a citizen of the republic. 

At the Conference a day of prayer and fasting was 
appointed for the prosperity of the work and for the 
peace of America. The year then closing had wit- 
nessed a great ingathering. Three thousand one hun- 
dred and forty-eight members in society were reported, 
and nineteen preachers were given appointments. As- 
bury was appointed to labor in Norfolk, Va. There 
were no signs of a renewal of the conflict of judg- 
ment between him and Rankin. Impressed, as they 
no doubt were, with the gravity of the experience 

76 Frbncis Asbury. 

through which the infant Church was clearly fore- 
doomed to pass, they laid aside their differences and 
worked together in a spirit of concession. It is prob- 
able, too, that the appointments were made after a 
very full discussion in open conference of the effect 
upon the work of the existing and threatened condi- 
tion of public affairs. Rankin says in his journal: 
"We conversed together, and concluded our business 
in love. We wanted all the light and advice we could 
obtain respecting our conduct in the present critical 
situation of affairs." 

The strained relations between Asbury and Rankin 
ended with this Conference, and there seems to have 
been much confidence and a real warmth of brotherly 
feeling: between them from this time to the end of 
Rankin's stay in the country. No doubt Rankin came 
to a more correct appraisement of Asbury's ability, 
and Asbury, in turn, found that his superior was nei- 
ther so obdurate nor so overbearing as he had at first 
suspected. It is the old story of human limitations 
within which the acts of even holy apostles have some- 
times been found blameworthy. 

Methodism was introduced into Norfolk and Ports- 
mouth in 1772 by Robert Williams, an irregular Wes- 
leyan preacher who preceded Boardman and Pilmoor 
to America by some months. He was one of the most 
interesting characters of the early Methodist era — zeal- 
ous, impetuous, passionately religious, and rudely elo- 
quent. His prophecy was burdened with a cry against 
the worldliness of the priests of the Established 
Church. He was an anti-hierarchical zealot, a repub- 
lican, and the embodiment of gospel self-abnegation. 
And yet he was an enigma to the world and to his 

Faith against Sii'ords. yj 

brethren. Ignorant of how to ' submit to discipline, 
he labored with marvelous results ; utterly dead to the 
world, he yet understood beyond all the men of his 
fellowship how to use the world as not abusing it. 
He printed books, and sold them while sweeping 
around his wilderness circuits, and toward the end 
of his remarkable career he married, and left at his 
death an estate considerable enough to be administered 
upon. He was, as the history of the early itinerants 
goes, the first of the preachers to print a book, the 
first to marry, and the first to die. The supreme dis- 
tinction of his life, however, is that of being the 
spiritual father of Jesse Lee, the apostle of Methodism 
to New England. 

For a preaching place in Portsmouth Williams had 
secured a vacant store, and for a chapel in Xorfolk 
an abandoned playhouse. He had also gathered a 
small society ; but the population was obdurate, and 
no extraordinary headway had been made previous to 
the time of Asbury's coming, 

From the miracles that had attended his ministry 
at Baltimore, at the Point, and amongst the planta- 
tions in Maryland, Asbury found himself transferred 
to conditions upon which even the fiery zeal of Wil- 
liams had but feebly told. But he was nearing his 
thirtieth year, and to a rich experience was adding the 
judgment and mastery of maturity. To his difficult 
task he addressed himself with purpose. 

The handful of members which he found in society 
were soon reduced a half by the application of disci- 
pline for which he always stood. This done, he be- 
gan a characteristic move upon the adjacent coasts 
and the wide region westward and northward of the 

78 Francis Asbury. 

twin ports. His circuit covered the country lying be- 
tween the Dismal Swamp and the great estuary, and 
as far northward as he had time and strength to ride. 
What had been difficult to Williams under happier 
conditions became all but impossible to Asbury, with 
the fever of war consuming the souls of the people. 
Politics and unbelief when mingled make a refractory 
composition. But the man of faith, hungering for 
holiness and peace and for human souls, went on with 
his work. Like a true captain, when the oppositions 
seemed strongest, he ordered an advance. A sub- 
scription for the building of a chapel was set on foot ; 
but the utmost that could be secured was £34. How 
faint a prophecy that of the modern Methodist Nor- 
folk, with its many and costly churches ! 

About midsummer of this year, Thomas Rankin 
for himself and others of the English preachers noti- 
fied Asbury that on account of the growing enmity to 
loyal British subjects in the revolted provinces he 
judged it best for them to return at an early day to 
England. To this communication Asbury returned a 
prompt and vigorous answer to the effect that, what- 
ever Rankin and others chose to do, he himself was 
determined to remain with the flock in America. This 
courageous stand of the former General Assistant 
caused Rankin to change his mind for the time. His 
departure from the continent was thus postponed for 
two years. 

A notable revival had been in progress in Virginia 
prior to 1775. It had begun under the ministry of 
the Rev. Devereux Jarratt, a priest of the Established 
Church, who had affiliated with the Methodists and 
used their methods, even organizing societies for the 

Faith against Swords. 79 

training of converts. In 1773 Robert Williams joined 
himself to Jarratt, and the revival took on extraordi- 
nary proportions. Then came George Shadford, 
whom Wesley had sent to America with the commis- 
sion to "publish his message in the face of the sun," 
and the pentecostal circle widened from district to 
district, and from county to county. Nothing like 
it had been seen in America before, and it was this 
awakening in Virginia which accounts for the extraor- 
dinary growth of the Methodist societies between 1775 
and 1777. In fact, the impetus of it was felt in Metho- 
dism for half a hundred years later. 

The Brunswick Circuit was the center of this note- 
worthy movement, and George Shadford was assistant 
in charge. In October, provided with a chaise, Asbury 
said farewell to Norfolk, and drove southward to 
Brunswick to join Shadford. Whether he went by 
appointment of Rankin or by invitation of Shadford 
does not appear. Bishop McTyeire describes his ab- 
sence as a "vacation." If so, it was a vacation from 
which he never returned. The state of war had great- 
ly interfered with an orderly administration of Con- 
ference affairs. Many of the preachers were under 
the necessity of becoming a law to themselves. This 
was particularly true of those itinerants in the coast 
cities exposed to invasion or bombardment. British 
marines had already landed at Norfolk, and soon after 
Asbury's departure the city was burned by order of 
the Tory governor of Virginia. Asbury had no im- 
mediate successor, and the circuit does not again ap- 
pear in the list of appointments until 1777. 

During the four succeeding months Asbury was 
within the revival circle in the interior. It was re- 

8o Francis Asbury. 

mote from the scenes of incipient war; the land was 
populous, the work of God was prospering as he de- 
sired it should in every place, and the soul of the 
visiting itinerant went out in a glow. He rode from 
revival to revival. At a certain quarterly meeting 
where he preached seven hundred people were reck- 
oned to be present. This meeting licensed three 
preachers, who afterwards became distinguished in the 
history of Methodism. They were Francis Poythress, 
James Foster, and Joseph Hartley. 

Some time after this Asbury visited the Rev. Mr. 
Jarratt, the evangelical Anglican who had been so 
largely instrumental in promoting the Virginia re- 
vival. The two held several meetings together, and 
for years afterwards they were united in the closest 
bonds of friendship and confidence. Some time later, 
when the societies and preachers were without proper 
superintendency on account of the long continuance 
of the war, they were by action of Conference recom- 
mended to seek advice of this godly and evangelical 
priest. Several of the early Methodist historians refer 
to him as "the American Fletcher," and the designation, 
in view of his spirit and zeal, is not inapt. 

About this time a letter came from Rankin direct- 
ing Asbury to repair to Philadelphia, and again as- 
sume charge of the societies in that war-troubled cen- 
ter. After giving some time to administering upon 
the will of his lately deceased fellow-itinerant, Robert 
Williams, he set off for Philadelphia by the way of 
Baltimore. For the next few months his journal con- 
stantly records rumors of an impending conflict. A 
great army was expected to arrive from England in 
the spring, and feverish preparation was being made 

Faith against Swords. 81 


by the colonies to resist. No conjecture could be 
risked as to where the chief attack would be delivered, 
and so every exposed community suffered from dis- 
turbing and distressing apprehensions. 

To add to the distress of the work and the embar- 
rassment of the preachers, Mr. Wesley's ill-advised 
"Calm Address to the American Colonies" had made 
its appearance. The immediate effect was to put the 
whole body of Methodists under the suspicion of dis- 
loyalty, and raise against the preachers, English and 
native, the cry of "Tory." The copies of the address 
sent to Rankin were summarily burned ; but the in- 
terested Tory government found a way to smuggle 
others in. The confusion wrought by this pamphlet 
cannot be appreciated at this distance. Rankin read 
the logic of it, and at the Conference held that year 
left himself without an appointment, that he might 
be able to go generally over the field to allay suspicion 
and preach down resentment, or, if so extreme a need 
should arise, that he might be free to leave the country 
at a moment's notice. 

The Conference met in Baltimore, in the newly 
opened Lovely Lane Chapel, on the 21st clay of May, 
six weeks before the signing of the Declaration of In- 
dependence. Asbury was not at the Conference, hav- 
ing been seized on his way thither with a severe ill- 
ness, a recrudescence of former malarial poisonings. 
Feeble but not despondent, he made his way back to 
Philadelphia, and awaited the return of his northern 
bound brethren to bring him news from the Confer- 

Within a fraction of five thousand members were 
reported in society, and twenty- four preachers received 

82 Francis Asbary. 

appointments. Amongst the names of those admitted 
on trial into the traveling connection appears that of 
Freeborn Garrettson, the avant-courier of early Metho- 
dism. Varied were the types of gifts, zeal, and hero- 
ism in the company of the itinerants that led the Wes- 
leyan movement in North America; but of that im- 
mortal guard no name retains a surer luster nor begets 
a more certain inspiration than that of Freeborn Gar- 

As in the previous year, the Conference finished its 
proceedings with a resolution appointing a day of 
fasting and prayer for the peace of America. In his 
sick chamber at Philadelphia, Asbury received the in- 
formation that he had been appointed assistant in 
charge of the Baltimore work. This was his fourth 
assignment to that circuit. Beyond a doubt, the news 
was a solace to him. Weak and wasted with long 
and frequent sicknesses, he rode southward to that 
haven of rest and earthly happiness, ''Perry Hall," 
where his friends, the Goughs, received him with ten- 
der affection and attended him with tireless minis- 

In returning to Maryland, he naturally felt that he 
was returning to his own ; but a foretaste of the sore 
experience he was to pass through during the next 
few years awaited him. The new political order was 
asserting itself vigorously. Asbury had failed to take 
out a civil license as a preacher. For this neglect — 
perhaps he was wholly ignorant of the necessity of 
such license — he was arrested and fined ten pounds. 
The rule, an old and inoperative one, had been re- 
vived with a view to limiting the loyalist propensities 
of the priests of the State Church. The fact that 

Faith against Swords. 83 

Asbury was an Englishman suggested to the colonial 
police the desirability of putting him under the rule. 

After about three weeks of active work in Mary- 
land, during which time he was more than once ex- 
posed to drenching rains, a malignant sore throat, the 
result of malarial poisoning long uncorrected, pros- 
trated him, and brought him near to death. It was 
now decided by his friends, the Goughs and Dallams, 
that he must take a vacation — strange sound to him ! — 
and go to the Warm Sulphur Springs in Virginia for 
his health, even for the saving of his life. It was mid- 
summer, and the Goughs and Dallams were soon to go 
thither on their annual outing. Having made provi- 
sion to supply his circuit, Asbury set forth with his 
friends on the journey to the Springs. "That no op- 
portunity might be lost," sick and shattered in frame 
though he was, he "ventured to preach" twice in Balti- 
more, and at night in the tavern at which he stopped 
the second day out. A great company was found at 
the Springs — a field white unto harvest, as he fondly 
hoped — and so he arranged a meeting each evening for 
preaching and exhortation in the cottage of Mr. 
Gough, or in some others that he found open. In 
addition to this, he preached three times each week 
and once on the Sabbath in the open air. At this 
time also his daily reading did not fall short of the 
accustomed one hundred pages. A task this for an 
invalid! And yet to him it was rest, soul-restoring 
rest. Moreover, his health improved steadily; nor 
was he without a variety of instructive and edifying 
experiences outside of his routine. He met not a few 
of such people as are usually attracted to such a re- 
sort — people of means, leisure, and intelligence of a 

84 Francis Asbury. 

sort, but possessed of freakish religious notions. He 
describes with some severity two spiritless sermons 
which he heard, and a conversation which he had with 
an antinomian. Serious man that he was, he had a 
keen sense of the ridiculous, and was quick to detect 
a sham ; nor was he slow to expose it — at least in his 

After six weeks of active resting at the Springs, 
with reinvigorated blood and fiber, he was back in 
Maryland, preaching to great crowds at many of the 
rural stations, and witnessing a general ingathering 
of converts. The results of the year for all Maryland 
were, in round numbers, little short of one thousand 
additions to the members in society. Constant tidings 
of the continued revival in Virginia also cheered him 
and his fellow-workers. The evangelism of the period 
was contagious: a wave of spiritual power seemed 
to be steadily rising in the two Colonies. With these 
tokens about him, and with constant access to his 
confiding and helpful friend Otterbein, there was 
now but one thing to give Asbury heaviness, and that 
was the ever deepening cloud of war that hung about 
the land. 

Near the end of February, leaving Joseph Hartley 
in charge of the Baltimore stations, he rode through 
blinding snows to open a new work in Annapolis, the 
capital. The new State assembly was in session, 
(lushed with the pride of recently declared independ- 
ence, and confident in the thought of nationality. The 
town was notoriously irreligious, being a hotbed of 
typical eighteenth century deism. The young itiner- 
ant aimed at nothing short of the evangelization of 
this place. It was a Herculean undertaking; but it 

Faith against Swords. 85 

was a spiritual Hercules who undertook it. Eventual- 
ly not a few of the members of the assembly attended 
upon his ministry. By the middle of spring a pro- 
nounced impression had been made upon the whole 
body of the people. When he delivered his last ser- 
mon preparatory to reporting to the Conference, a 
notable congregation waited upon his message and 
importuned him to return. 

A Mastery of Spirits. 

We now come to sketch the history of a series of 
events that tested Asbury's spirit and brought out his 
powers of mastery and leadership. But for the dis- 
tinct and crucial situation created by these events, it 
is doubtful if the providential mission of Asbury to 
the New World could have been so completely and 
effectively realized as it was. 

The Conference of 1777 met in a country chapel 
at Deer Creek, in Harford County, Maryland, on the 
twentieth day of May. Asbury and certain other 
members of the Conference held an unofficial prelim- 
inary meeting at "Perry Hall,"' the home of the 
Goughs, at which the stationing of the preachers and 
other matters were discussed. Two important depar- 
tures were proposed. One was a plan to have Rankin 
administer the ordinances ; but this was summarily 
voted down. Another was that, in view of the almost 
certain early departure of Rankin, and possibly of the 
other English preachers, a committee of American 
preachers should be appointed to superintend the soci- 
eties when it should happen that no General Assistant 
was on the ground. This was favorably considered, 
•and the committee was regularly appointed by the 
Conference. No account of this action appears in the 
printed minutes of the year; but a contemporaneous 
document supplies the record, and also gives the names 
of the members of the committee. They were : Wil- 

A Mastery of Spirits. 87 

Ham Watters, Philip Gatch, Daniel Ruff, Edward 
Dromgoole, and William Glendenning. 

Thomas Rankin was present, and presided ; though 
he announced that both he and the other English 
brethren would soon take their departure for the 
mother country. For their use and protection certifi- 
cates of character were issued by the Conference. 
But this did not include the name of Asbury, for he 
had already announced his purpose to remain with 
the Americans. Nevertheless, his recall by Wesley 
had not been revoked, and it was foreseen that the 
order to return might be renewed at any time. 

The American brethren urged that those English 
preachers who had been demitted should remain to 
the last moment. Accordingly George Shadford and 
Martin Rodda were given appointments, the one in 
Maryland and the other in Delaware. Rankin, as in 
the two previous years, gave himself no assignment; 
neither does the name of Asbury appear in the sta- 
tion list. However, immediately after the Confer- 
ence he rode to Annapolis, and took up the work which 
he had left but a few weeks before, and which had 
become a part of the Baltimore Circuit. 

The absence of Asbury 's name from the list of ap- 
pointments for this year has been a puzzle to the his- 
torians ; but to me the explanation is on the face of 
things. Rankin, expecting to leave the country at any 
time, arranged with Asbury, with whom he had come 
to an understanding, to take up the supcrintendency 
of the societies the moment he should depart. This 
only can explain why Asbury's name did not head the 
provisional committee. So long as Asbury should 

88 Francis Asbury. 

be on the ground the commission plan was inoperative. 
Proof of this will appear later. 

The line of travel which Asbury laid out for him- 
self indicates that he had already been admitted by 
Rankin to a joint superintenclency, which was to be- 
come complete the moment Rankin took ship. This 
will also explain the frequent meetings of Asbury and 
Rankin during the remaining weeks of the latter's 
stay. It seems, too, that in August Asbury insisted 
on Rankin's taking a three months' service in Balti- 
more. This suggestion could not have been made with 
any degree of seemliness unless some understanding 
had been on between them. Rankin had his reasons 
for declining to go to Baltimore ; but they were not a 
denial of the right of Asbury to suggest the appoint- 
ment. Within a month Rankin was on the high seas 
bound for England. 

Asbury now manifested the sign of a General Assist- 
ant by widening his circuit. In a little while it in- 
cluded the greater part of Maryland, and he was on 
the point of extending his oversight to other parts of 
the field when he learned that George Shadford, the 
last of the English preachers besides himself, had em- 
barked for Europe. This left the Baltimore Circuit 
in a state of crying need. There was no course open 
to Asbury but to remain in Maryland and supply the 
lack. This he was proceeding to do when the Mary- 
land officers informed him that he must take the oath 
of allegiance to the new State government. The pun- 
ishment for failure to do so was extradition or im- 
prisonment. Maryland did not accept the Articles of 
Federation until 1781 ; but from ttoe*firjst she demanded 
a strict loyalty from those within her borders. As- 

A Mastery of Spirits. 89 

bury declined to naturalize. As a loyal Englishman, 
he could not, and as a minister his conscience was 
against the oath. As a means of personal safety, he 
repaired to the State of Delaware, where no such oath 
was required, and where he hoped to live in peace as a 
nonjuror In this he was mistaken, and of course his 
work as General Assistant was over until conditions 

In Delaware he found an asylum in the hospitable 
home of Judge White, of the Kent County Court of 
Common Pleas, who, though a High-churchman, had 
long been a friend and admirer of the faithful evan- 
gelist. The White home came to be to him a place 
only second in his affections to "Perry Hall." Here 
he was in practical exile for many months, though 
he managed to sally forth and preach in a nine days' 
circuit about the castle of his protector. He also held 
frequent meetings in the barn on the White estate, 
and it was in this same barn that he organized the 
movement which no doubt changed the whole history 
of early American Methodism, and marked him as a 
man of marvelous foresight and leadership, such lead- 
ership, however, as answers to no rule in books of 
military tactics and contradicts every precedent de- 
veloped in the stories of the mighty. This man who 
walked by faith led his fellows captive by the same- 

Although he finally escaped bodily harm, or arrest, 
he suffered not a few persecutions, and was often in 
imminent danger from those who counted him an en- 
emy of their country. He saw his noble host arrested 
and dragged away to prison, perhaps for his sake, and 
he was himself compelled to hide for a considerable 

QO Francis Asbury. 

time in a neighboring swamp to escape the hands of 
those who meant him evil. 

Others of the itinerants were not so fortunate. Sev- 
eral were imprisoned at Annapolis by the Maryland 
police. Hartley was beaten and cast into a dungeon. 
Freeborn Garrettson was not only confined in jail, 
but was assaulted by a petty ex-juclge and felled from 
his horse. Peddicord was brutally assaulted, and re- 
ceived wounds the scars of which he carried to his 
grave ; and yet another member of the Conference lost 
an eye because of his zeal for the Word. 

They suffered under the false accusation of being 
Tories and sympathizers with royalty This came to 
them because of Mr. Wesley's unwise pamphlet on 
the stamp act and the war. But notwithstanding all 
they suffered, not one was silenced or forgot that he 
served the Lord Christ. 

The test of Methodism was now at hand. The Con- 
ference of 1778 met in Leesburg, Va. Of course As- 
bury did not preside. He could not even be present, 
it being impossible for him to cross the territory of 
Maryland, and indeed dangerous for him to venture 
far from the home of his protector. 

William Watters, the first named of the provisional 
committee appointed the previous year and the first 
native American admitted into the traveling connec- 
tion, presided over the deliberations of the Confer- 
ence. Amongst those admitted on trial at Leesburg 
was James O'Kelley, a man of whom we shall have 
occasion to speak again as this narrative progresses. 

At the Conference held at Deer Creek, the last over 
which Rankin presided, it had been resolved to lay the 
whole matter of the ordinances "over for the determi- 

A Mastery of Spirits. 91 

nation of the Conference to be held at Leesburg." 
But still so uncertain were these lay itinerants of the 
ground upon which their issue was pitched that they 
again deferred action to the session of the Conference 
to be held the succeeding year in Fluvanna County, 
Virginia. It is more than probable that this post- 
ponement was secured by Watters himself. His con- 
servatism nearly approached that of the English 
preachers, and in the succeeding year he allied himself 
with Asbury, and assisted in the defeat of the sacra- 
mental party. 

The Leesburg minutes make no mention of Asbury's 
name. His enforced inactivity put him in the rank 
of a local preacher. The name of William Watters 
leads the list of assistants, and this made him the de 
facto head of the societies. In consequence of the 
war, the numbers in society had fallen off nearly one 
thousand, and the number of preachers had been con- 
siderably reduced. This was one of the few years 
in the history of American Methodism in which there 
has been recorded an actual loss. 

Though the Conference adjourned, leaving the sac- 
ramental question where it had rested for a year, it 
soon began to be apparent that sentiment upon the 
subject was advancing. Watters and other conserva- 
tives saw that radical action would be taken at the 
Conference to be held in 1779. Whether or not they 
communicated their fears to Asbury cannot now be 
stated with certainty. But though remote from the 
scene, and in exile, Asbury gathered accurate informa- 
tion concerning the course of events, and deeply medi- 
tated a plan for circumventing what had now passed 
beyond the ordinary means of correction. 

92 Francis Asbury. 

In the meantime Asbury was not idle as an itinerant, 
though without an appointment. Freeborn Garrettson, 
who was assistant on the Delaware Circuit, divided 
the work with him, and in all matters deferred to 
him as though he were the superior by appointment. 
He dared not go beyond the borders of Delaware; but 
was constantly visited by former comrades, and he 
kept his eye on the work from Pennsylvania to Vir- 
ginia. His influence and the respect in which he was 
held were but little, if any, diminished by his long 
isolation. In fact, during this year his ascendency 
over the preachers of "the Northern stations" became 
complete. His sufferings, his zeal, and the unexam- 
pled power of his ministry as a "prisoner of Jesus 
Christ" were known and testified to all along the west- 
ern shore. In some way it was read by many that to 
him had been committed the book of the law and the 
leadership of the hosts to be. All those preachers 
under his immediate shadow were won away from the 
desire to break with Mr. Wesley and take up the ad- 
ministration of the sacraments. Those farther away 
from him — namely, all those in Virginia which now 
contained, with the stations in North Carolina, far 
more than half of all the members in society, as also 
a substantial majority of the preachers — were deter- 
mined to follow the example of Strawbridge and ad- 
minister the ordinances on the ground that providence 
had supplied the necessary grant of authority. 

Foreseeing the course of the preachers in the South, 
Asbury called a Conference of those itinerants sta- 
tioned north of the Virginia line. He had seen the 
advantage of a before-Conference caucus in 1777, and 
he no doubt at first meant that this meeting should be 

A Mastery of Spirits. 93 

nothing more than such. But, like Mr. Wesley, when 
he found that one wise step logically called for another, 
that other was taken without hesitancy. The plan for 
a caucus matured into a call for a Conference. The 
session was held in the barn on the Judge White es- 
tate, in Kent County, Delaware, April 28, 1777, exactly 
three weeks before the date appointed for the meeting 
of the regular Conference in Fluvanna County, Vir- 

Several reasons have been assigned for the calling 
of this "little Conference," or "quasi Conference," as 
it has been styled by different historians. The most 
apparent was that Asbury could not attend the regular 
session held beyond the borders of Delaware. But a 
reason given by Asbury himself was that the Northern 
brethren might be prepared for the regular session, 
which is perhaps a franker reason than even honest 
Asbury meant to state. So well were these brethren 
prepared for the regular Conference that practically 
none of them attended its sittings. The real reason 
for holding this Northern Conference was one of 
masterful strategy — namely, to prevent a separation 
of the societies from Mr. Wesley and to defeat the 
sacramental party. The Virginia Conference was 
regular ; the Delaware Conference was irregular. 
When that is said, the constitutional question has been 
exhausted. Some historians have referred to the Vir- 
ginians as schismatics. That is an anachronism of 
prejudice. Asbury's Conference can be justified only 
by the logic of successful revolution. It was the self- 
vindicating expedient of a seer and a master of men. 

Sixteen preachers constituted the Delaware Confer- 
ence. They agreed to acknowledge the authority of 

94 Francis Asbury. 

Asbury as General Assistant, accept the appointments 
made by him, and remain in connection with Mr. Wes- 
ley. William Watters, the head of the Governing 
Committee appointed in 1777, and who had presided 
at Leesburg, rode from his station in Northern Vir- 
ginia to attend this Conference and to urge Asbury 
to attend the regular session in Virginia. That he had 
been privy to Asbury's plans is proved by the fact 
that he took an appoinment to Baltimore, and thus 
formally separated himself from his colleagues in the 
South. "A soft and healing epistle" was written the 
Virginians begging them to desist from their contem- 
plated course. This epistle rested the case for a year. 

Thus fortified with an organized Conference behind 
him, and with his authority as Mr. Wesley's legate 
revived, Asbury awaited the issue of events. 

The regular Conference met at the appointed time. 
William Watters was present, but did not preside. 
That responsibility fell to Philip Catch, whose name 
stood second on the Governing Committee. The Con- 
ference promptly entered upon a policy of independen- 
cy, and resolved to constitute a presbytery for the 
decent ordination of a ministry. This presbytery con- 
sisted of three members, with Philip Gatch at its head. 
The members were authorized to administer the sac- 
raments and to convey by ordination a like authority 
to others whom they deemed worthy. 

The war of the Revolution had now reached its 
most tragic stage. Direct communication with En- 
gland had long been at an end. The spiritual destitu- 
tion of the country was great; the priests of the Es- 
tablished Church had nearly all deserted their cures. 
The preachers in the Virginia Conference were, with- 

A Mastery of Spirits. 95 

out exception, Americans. The call to do what they 
did seemed imperative. They were the children of 
gospel expediency, and they followed the law of their 

By the action of the Conference the societies were 
erected into a Presbyterian Church. The breach with 
the Northern Conference was thus, to all appearances, 
complete. Satisfied with what they had done, the 
Virginia itinerants went forth to their societies, sud- 
denly raised to the status of Christian Churches, and 
began to baptize their converts and give to their con- 
gregations the bread and wine of the Holy Supper. 

The wrongness of this course was wholly in its in- 
expediency. It was legal, it was canonical, it was 
scriptural ; but it was a course unadvisedly taken. The 
time selected was not that appointed of providence. It 
failed in the end, and failed logically 

The people received the ordinances gladly ; and in 
the face of the fact that the war was at its tragic 
height, the revival in Virginia continued. The in- 
crease in membership in these parts during a period 
beginning with January, 1779, was phenomenal. Not 
unnaturally these tokens were accepted by both preach- 
ers and people as an indorsement by Providence of the 
sacramental departure. 

Asbury passed the remainder of the year in great 
activity. In study and travel he fairly eclipsed his 
former record, though his circuit lay wholly within 
the State of Delaware. His condition, too, was now 
much ameliorated. New and strong friends had come 
to his aid, amongst them the Governor of Delaware, 
under whose protection he had placed himself. He 
had also found in Delaware another "American Fletcb- 

96 Francis Asbury. 

er" in the person of the Rev. Air. McGraw, of the 
Established Church, who, like Jarratt, had aligned 
himself with the Methodists and became their defend- 
er. A continuous revival went on here as well, and 
the number of communicants in the Church greatly in- 
creased, for the Delaware Methodists considered them- 
selves Episcopalians. 

Asbury constantly indulged the hope that the South- 
ern societies would, at the end of the year, make over- 
tures for an agreement and union with the societies 
in the North. This hope came of his own knowledge 
of the preachers, and was stimulated by letters which 
he received from individual itinerants in the South. 
Events showed that he had not wholly mistaken his 
brethren ; but the task of reconciliation proved greater 
than he calculated. 

The Northern Conference had adjourned to meet 
in Baltimore April 25, 1780. Asbury rode thither, 
crossing over to Maryland soil for the first time in 
more than two years. A passport from the Governor 
of Delaware secured him safe conduct; but in Mary- 
land he was a nonjuror, and could not preach. His 
presidency over the Conference was not interdicted ; 
but as a prophet or a minister he dared not speak. 
Under this constrained "silence" his spirit chafed; but 
it was a consequence of war. 

As had been anticipated, a letter came from the Vir- 
ginia Methodists. This letter was delivered by mes- 
sengers empowered to treat. Several proposals were 
made by Asbury, but were rejected by the messengers. 
At last Asbury suggested a suspension of the adminis- 
tration of the ordinances for one year, and an appeal 
to Wesley, with union and cooperation in the mean- 

A Mastery of Spirits. 97 

ime. The messengers thought this might do, and 
agreed to bear the offer to their brethren. Asbury, 
jarrettson, and Watters were appointed to visit the 
/irginians as commissioners from the Northern body. 

The Southern Conference was to meet at Broken- 
iack Church., Manikintown, Ya., May 9, 1780. In 
ompany with Garrettson and Watters, Asbury started 
hither about the first of May. Having perfected his 
American citizenship papers, he had the great joy dur- 
ng his southward journey to preach to his former 
larishioners in Baltimore. In due time he and his 
ellow-commissioners arrived at the seat of the Vir- 
ginia Conference. 

Being invited to come before the Conference, As- 
iury read Air. Wesley's thoughts against separation 
rom the Church of England, together with a letter 
eceived by him at some earlier date from Mr. Wesley 
n the same subject. He also discussed the proposals 
lade to the Southern messengers at Baltimore two 
/eeks before. He did not speak forensically, or in 
he spirit of demand, but in tones of persuasiveness 
nd love. The effect of his address was so nearly a 
ealing of the difference that the preachers agreed to 
uspend the administrations on the ground that Asbury 
hould supply the ordinances to the circuits. This, 
owever, he could not do ; and so the matter rested 
or the time. 

Asbury closed the morning session of the Confer- 
nce with a sermon which melted many hearts. The 
^ay to an understanding seemed to have opened 
fresh; but at the afternoon session the prospect had 
eparted. Asbury then renewed the proposal to sus- 
end the administrations pending an appeal to Wesley, 


98 Francis Asbury. 

after which he and his companions withdrew that the 
Conference might have freedom of discussion. Re- 
pairing to his lodgings near by, Asbury fell upon his 
face in prayer. It was an hour of agony and loud 
crying for the healing of the hurt of Zion. The hour 
having expired, the commissioners were recalled to 
receive the answer of the Conference. The terms of 
union could not be accepted. The close of negotiations 
was abrupt enough. 

The commissioners now prepared to return to their 
stations in the North. Asbury went again to his lodg- 
ings to take final leave of his host ; but once more in his 
chamber, he fell upon his face and prayed "as with a 
broken heart." Earthly help was gone ; but the man 
of many and mighty prayers laid hold upon the feet 
of Power. Mounting his horse, he rode away ; but 
alighted at the place where the Conference was being 
held to say farewell to those who had chosen to reject 
his counsel. What was his joy and surprise, if a man 
of such faith as his could be surprised of Heaven, to 
find that while he and his companions had been pray- 
ing the Conference had accepted his terms. The ad- 
ministration of the ordinances was to be suspended, 
and there was to be but one Conference. "Surely the 
hand of God has been greatly seen in all this" was the 
calmly grateful speech which Asbury indulged in re- 
flecting on the fruitful end of his labors and prayers. 

To consummate the act of union, the commissioners 
were seated in the Conference. Asbury assumed the 
chair, and stationed the preachers. He was also re- 
quested by Conference action to take general oversight 
of the work and communicate with Mr. Wesley in the 
name of the reunited societies. 


The New American. 

With the happy close of the Conference in Virgin- 
ia, in 1780, dawned not only a new era for Methodism 
in America, but a new civic experience came to its 
leader. From that hour Asbury began to be an Ameri- 
can. Having been made a full citizen in Delaware 
some days before, he was now free to go as he chose. 
The invitation of the Virginians to ride through their 
territory was therefore accepted, and the task entered 
upon without delay. 

The gloomiest days of the war were at hand. Corn- 
wallis had overrun South Carolina and was pressing 
northward to a strong position at Camden, where he 
later inflicted a crushing defeat on the Americans un- 
der General Gates. A division of the Continental army 
was now moving southward, and Asbury was some- 
times in its wake, sometimes on its flank, as he stopped 
to preach, and then rode a forced stage to meet an- 
other waiting company. There was daily expectation 
of hostilities at the front, but -in the face of these 
threatening conditions the tireless itinerant pressed on 
through southern Virginia and upper North Carolina, 
the stages of his journey aggregating more than a thou- 
sand miles marked by literally hundreds of sermons and 

Asbury was now bishop de facto. The whole work 
had been put under his care by competent canonical 
action. He had been given by the Northern Confer- 
ence primacy in all matters of administration and the 


ioo Francis Asbury. 

same power over legislation as that enjoyed by Mr. 
Wesley in England, and this had been practically 
agreed to by the preachers in the South. But for all 
this there was much to do to perfectly heal the breach 
made by the sacramental controversy. There were 
members of the party of separation yet to be met and 
reconciled ; a questioning spirit amongst the people 
had also to be answered. This was one of the chief 
ends to be served by the tour. Therefore as he ad- 
vanced he not only called sinners to repentance, but 
gently urged the saints to be of one mind. Methodists 
he exhorted to follow him as he followed Wesley. Re- 
lief was sure to come at no distant day, and they must 
be patient. 

This work of reconciliation was not easy. The Es- 
tablished Church had collapsed, and, except in a few 
cases, its priests had either fled or had been expelled 
from the country. The people were receiving with 
gladness the old-new truths of the gospel as preached 
by the Methodists, and the}' demanded that these truths 
should be confirmed in the sacraments. With mon- 
archy they had given up sacerdotalism, and could not 
understand why the administrations had been suspend- 
ed. But such was his power over men of all stations 
that wherever Asbury went these doubts were com- 
posed, though elsewhere much unrest continued to pre- 
vail. He had, however, set himself to silence the con- 
troversy, and could neither withhold his voice nor rest 
his goings until he saw the end. 

In Virginia he had the joy to meet again the Rev. 
Mr. Jarratt, who was one of the few priests of the 
Establishment remaining in the country. Being a 
native of Virginia and in. full sympathy from the first 

The New American. 101 

with the efforts of the colonies to gain their independ- 
ence, he was naturally a man much respected, while 
his evangelical spirit and his zeal as a preacher made 
him doubly a light in the darkness of his times. He 
undertook to assist Asbury in composing the differ- 
ences in the societies, and agreed to attend and par- 
ticipate in the proceedings of the forthcoming Metho- 
dist Conference. 

It was during this tour also that Asbury had his 
first meeting with James O'Kelley, who afterwards 
became his strong antagonist, and led the first schism 
from the Methodist body in America. The impression 
which the future schismatic made upon the future bish- 
op was most favorable, and for a long time after this 
meeting there was much confidence between them. In- 
deed, O'Kelley now stood next to the leader himself. 

About this time Asbury was joined by Edward 
Bailey, a faithful local preacher, who became his trav- 
eling companion on the journey through North Caro- 
lina. In a chaise they traversed the wide and unmarked 
circuits, fording deep rivers, winding and cutting their 
way through trackless forests and over broken and 
rocky ledges. Crossing the Tar, the Neuse, and the 
Haw Rivers, they pushed well-nigh into the heart of 
the State. Returning by a more westerly path, they 
came to the town of Hillsboro, then a place of some 
importance, and still possessing a real historic interest. 
From this point they continued their return in a direct 
course to the Virginia line, and on the 8th of Sep- 
tember crossed the Roanoke River, having spent some- 
what more than two months in the Carolina Circuits. 
Soon after returning to Virginia Asbury was deeply 
saddened by the death of his faithful traveling com- 

102 Francis Asbury. 

panion, who expired, after a brief warning, in the midst 
of zealous labors. 

About this time also he took another degree in pa- 
triotism, and was led to more fully declare his fealty 
to the American cause. On receipt of the news that 
the army of General Gates had been defeated by Corn- 
wallis, he wrote in his journal: "I have a natural affec- 
tion for my own countrymen; yet I can hear them 
called cruel, and calmly listen to threatenings of slaugh- 
ter against them." It was his sense of English justice 
that made him a loyal American. 

Although the Virginia Conference had adjourned 
early in May, it was not until the middle of September 
that Asbury communicated to Mr. Wesley information 
of the reconciliation of the divided societies. There 
are two possible reasons for this delay. The first is 
that Asbury may have found no earlier opportunity 
for dispatching a letter. Private postal matter meant 
for England had first to go either to France or the 
Netherlands, and from thence through the post of an- 
other and friendly power. Ships sailed at long and un- 
certain intervals. But what is more likely to have been 
the reason was that Asbury desired first to satisfy him- 
self as to the sentiment amongst the people. The con- 
tents of the letter which he wrote are not now fully 
known, but the communication which came from Mr. 
Wesley by the hand of Dr. Coke in 1784 and the com- 
mission which he bore to organize a Church and ordain 
a clergy were a full answer to the request which it pre- 

From this first general tour Asbury returned to his 
earthly Eden, "Perry Hall," praying as he went a 
ceaseless prayer for the peace of the people he had 

The New American. 103 

seen scattered through the wilderness. His faith was 
strong, divinely strong; but he could not then grasp 
that vision of the future which would have given him 
rest from every thought of the morrow. But the wa^ys 
of the Most High are hidden that the faith of his cho- 
sen may have its needed exercise. 

At his going out in the early spring his purse had 
been by the princely Gough replenished with three guin- 
eas. This stock he had largely expended on his jour- 
ney through the South ; but the last farthing had gone 
from his hand only when he was in sight, as it were, 
of the gables of "Perry Hall." Thus the expenses in- 
curred during nearly twice a thousand miles of travel 
were accounted for in the expenditure of somewhat less 
than ten dollars in coin and a few dollars of almost 
worthless Continental paper. It is not a matter of sur- 
prise that to a man of such simplicity and frugality a 
yearly salary of sixty-five dollars should seem an abun- 
dance ! 

The return of the General Assistant to the North 
was timely. During his half year of absence in Vir- 
ginia trouble had arisen in Maryland and Delaware. 
The quarterly meetings had come on, and the exchange 
of preachers had taken place. With no authority pres- 
ent to arbitrate their differences of judgment, serious 
friction had resulted. This was the really weak point 
in the polity of early Methodism, but one which was 
afterwards remedied in the office of the presiding elder- 

Within a year after his new investiture Asbury saw 
the magnitude of his task. He must be constructively 
present in every part of the field. To make this possi- 
ble he must cause his face and personality to become 

104 Francis Asbury. 

familiar to the whole body of the people called Meth- 
odists. The task was a large one. His apostleship 
had developed in a call to increased travel and labors ; 
but the prospect gave him joy, and he shrank from no 
responsibility. He reentered Delaware in November, 
and by the coming of New Year's Day all friction had 
been removed. Even graver difficulties yielded to his 
wise and gentle tactics. Letters came from Virginia 
saying: "The jarring string has been broken, and those 
who were friends at first are friends at last." The vi- 
sion of the prophet upon Shiggionoth was repeated. 

The advantage which came of holding two Confer- 
ences in 1779 and 1780 suggested to Asbury a continu- 
ance of the plan. Two sessions would accommodate 
a greater number of the preachers, and in the event of 
a renewal of the sacramental question or the emergence 
of a new difficulty, one section could be held as a check 
on the other. The point was not to be overlooked by 
so wise a leader and so careful a disciplinarian as As- 
bury. Two sittings were accordingly planned for 1781, 
the first to be had at Choptank, in Delaware, on April 
16, and the other at Baltimore on April 24. This last 
sitting was, in fact, the regularly adjourned session of 
the Virginia Conference, which had met at Manikin- 
town the previous year. 

The statistics for the year showed ten thousand five 
hundred and ninety-four members in society and fifty- 
four preachers. At the Baltimore session there was for 
the first time in two years an attendance of preachers 
from the whole field and a healthy exchange of assist- 
ants and helpers between the North and the South. An- 
bury's remedy for schism, as also his rule of evangel- 
ism, was "a circulation of the preachers." 

The Nczo American. 105 

At this time a vast new missionary field was being 
opened up in the mountains of Northern Virginia, and 
to this territory the General Assistant rode after the 
session of the Conference. Setting out about the end 
of May, he pushed as far westward as Martinsburg. 
Turning northwestward from that point, he preached 
in the wild and picturesque mountain valleys along and 
beyond the south branch 01 the Potomac. There he 
longed to be able to speak with tongues that he might 
preach the gospel to the peoples and kindreds who had 
come to make their homes in those fair new lands. 
Commissioning men, he sent them forth to press be- 
yond the mountains to the north and west, and become 
the vanguard of an itinerant army that later brought 
the far-reaching valleys of the Ohio and its tributaries 
under the dominion of Methodism. In those wonder- 
spelling mountains he saw the gushing springs and 
explored the stalactite caves that have since made fa- 
mous the Appalachian highlands of Virginia. 

It was on this journey also that he had his first taste 
of real pioneering. On the bare floors of squatters' 
cabins, on the tops of naked chests, and even on the 
stony floor of mountain paths he found often his only 
rest for the night. But naturally he improved in bodily 
frame, breathing the ozone of those freer altitudes and 
drinking the uninfected waters filtered from mountain 
sands. At the end of the summer, with the fragrance 
of the laurel and the pine on his garments, high in 
spirits and with a widened vision of his undisputed 
see, he returned for a brief official tour of Maryland 
and Pennsylvania. 

Letters from the Peninsula and from the lower sta- 
tions in Virginia awaited him. Those from the Penin- 

106 Francis Asbury. 

sula told of peace and continued revival. The priests 
of the expiring Establishment united with the Meth- 
odist exhorters in the call to repentance. Rev Charles 
Pettrgrew, an Anglican, afterwards elected to the Prot- 
estant Episcopal diocese of Delaware, was in warm 
sympathy with the revival. Freeborn Garrettson, late- 
ly released from prison, where he had suffered for the 
gospel's sake, had fired the workers with new zeal. Not 
the common people only, but the aristocracy, heard the 
message gladly. Now could Asbury see the meaning 
of his two years of exile in pent-up Delaware. The 
seed which he sowed during those months of seeming 
vanity had already begun to yield their fruit. 

The letters from Virginia told of a no less advancing 
work ; but there was still a note of discord — a sporadic 
discontent on account of the suspended ordinances. 
That meant another tour through those parts before 
the Conference should meet. But important as was 
that visit, it must be delayed. Philadelphia and the 
more northern stations, lately freed from the incubus 
of garrisoning armies, must be counseled and helped. 
The war had left in those parts many wastes that must 
be repaired without delay. 

Now for the first time we begin to hear of "quarter- 
ly meeting Conferences ;" and indeed at this time it is 
difficult to determine the line of distinction between 
the functions of a quarterly and an annual Conference. 
At the lesser, as at the greater, gathering Asbury or- 
ganized circuits, appointed preachers, and administered 
discipline. Throughout there was no fixed program, 
but all things took the course of Christian expediency. 
The outlines of a great ecclesiasticism were, however, 
slowly coming into view. 

The New American. 107 

No complete account of the Methodist movement in 
America had been written up to this time, and the need 
for such a narrative was being felt. Asbury under- 
took to supply the lack. This work must have been 
a mere pamphlet, . and so far as I have been able to 
ascertain no copy of it is in existence. Of similar char- 
acter was a brochure on the cause and cure of Church 
divisions, meant to offset the arguments of the Flu- 
vanna party. Aside from his journal these appear to 
be the most serious literary essays he ever set himself 
to produce. 

The Quarterly Conference visitations in the North 
being completed, he was again, at the beginning of win- 
ter, in Virginia. The point of going out was Bohemia 
Manor, the gateway through which he passed to that 
mysterious Southland that lay before him in the au- 
tumn of 1772. What miracles had been wrought in 
those ten years ! When he first saw Bohemia Manor 
he was young and inexperienced ; and though of a 
courageous faith, he was going forth as one not know- 
ing whither he was led. Then the Methodists in Amer- 
ica were but a few hundred ; now they were thousands 
on thousands, and multiplying daily. Then he was 
the distrusted superior of half a dozen fellow-workers; 
now he was the chosen leader of threescore men of 
faith and iron, who were ready to go and come as he 
said, only asking that he follow Christ as they fol- 
lowed him. 

Again his path led through that region of the Old 
Dominion where six years before so remarkable a 
revival had attended the labors of Shadford and Jar- 
ratt. There was there now a strong and growing 
Methodist constituency. The war had not affected the 

108 Francis Asbury. 

prosperity of the region, but it had been the center of 
the sacramental disturbance, and the general assistant 
approached it with apprehension. His fears were, 
however, groundless, for on arriving he found that the 
spirit of division was dead, or only lingered in fitful 
and widely separated manifestations. 

All along Asbury had trusted much to the sympathy 
and good influence of Jarratt. Both the preachers and 
the people in Virginia had great respect for him, and 
were much influenced by his advice. This Virginia 
journey brought Asbury again into his home and par- 
ish. The fact that the initial sitting of the Conference 
for the year was to be had at Ellis's Preaching House 
in Sussex made it possible for Jarratt to redeem his 
pledge, made to Asbury the year before, to attend and 
participate. The sitting took place on April 17, and 
Mr. Jarratt opened the proceedings with a discourse. 
The preachers present signed a paper renewing the 
agreement of the former year concerning the sacra- 
ments, and the Conference closed with a second dis- 
course by Mr. Jarratt. "The power of God was mani- 
fested in a most extraordinary manner," wrote Asbury 
in his journal the next day; "the preachers and people 
wept, believed, loved, and obeyed." 

The Church priest and the Methodist general assist- 
ant then rode away together, but soon to separate, the 
Churchman to visit certain Virginia circuits as an 
evangelist, and the general assistant to look after dis- 
tant parts of the field. As he continued his journey 
northward, he heard the welcome news that the war 
of the Revolution had ended in victorv for the Colo- 
nies. His Americanism is reflected in this entry made 
the same day in his journal : "Here I heard the good 

The New American. 109 

news that Britain had acknowledged the independence 
for which America has been contending. May it be 

The Baltimore sitting of the Conference began on 
May 20. Since the minutes of both sittings were con- 
solidated into one record, it is difficult to ascertain at 
which sitting any particular action began. It is under- 
stood, though, that important items went before each 
body for ratification. The minutes of the year show 
these actions to have been taken, originating, presuma- 
bly, with the Virginians : 

"Question 18. Shall we erase that question proposed 
in the Deer Creek Conference respecting the ordi- 
nances ?" 

"Answer. Undoubtedly we must ; it can have no place 
in our minutes while we stand to our agreement signed 
in Conference ; it is therefore disannulled." 

"Ques. 19. Do the brethren in Conference choose 
Brother Asbury to act according to Mr. Wesley's orig- 
inal appointment, and preside over the American Con- 
ference and the whole work?" 

"Ans. Yes." 

Thus was the latter state of the unmitered Bishop 
made more secure than the first, and also was the desire 
of the people to have the ordinances at the hands of 
their own preachers sepulchered to have a triumphant 
resurrection in the Christmas Conference. 

The latter half of 1782 was spent by Asbury in 
Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. His first care 
was to discharge a long-accumulating correspondence 
and look after certain Church properties embarrassed 
by ante-war debts. Another office was to plan relief 
for those chapels harassed by exorbitant ground rents. 

no Francis Asbury. 

a burdensome entailment of some of our present-day 
Churches in Baltimore and other Eastern cities. 

The New Year brought another call to Virginia. 
His first sermon in the State was at Williamsburg, the 
Colonial Capital, where the fiery eloquence of Patrick 
Henry had stirred the Cavaliers in their first real re- 
sistance to the Hanoverian tyrant. But when Asbury 
saw it glory it had none. The functions and the func- 
tionaries of State had long before removed to Rich- 
mond, and the preacher left it with little hope that it 
would ever become a fruitful part of the spiritual vine- 

Passing through Virginia, he again entered North 
Carolina, pushing many leagues farther westward than 
in 1780. The borders of Methodism had been extended 
far beyond the Yadkin, even to the western base of 
those uplooming mountains that then formed the hin- 
terland of American civilization. Salem, the famous 
Moravian settlement in the northern Piedmont, and 
Hillsboro, the latter still suffering from the calamities 
of war, were visited, as were many other intervening 

The Virginia sitting of the Conference recurred at 
Ellis's Preaching House, in Sussex County, May 6, 
1783. This session, as also the one which met twenty- 
one days later in Baltimore, was conducted in great 
peace. The question of African slavery, often referred 
to by Asbury and more than once brought before the 
Conference, came up in a more pronounced form than 
it had hitherto assumed. The recently published peace 
and the settled nationality of the Colonies gave to the 
subject a new significance. "We all agreed in the 
spirit of African liberty," wrote Asbury in his journal; 

The New A merican. 1 1 1 

and a rule was made which required local as well as 
traveling preachers to manumit their slaves where the 
laws of the State permitted it. 

The Conference of 1783 is chiefly famous as the one 
at which Jesse Lee was received on trial into the trav- 
eling connection. Few men were more active and 
prominent in the early American Church. As the first 
historian of Methodism and as the founder of the sta- 
tions in New England, he has become known to later 
generations. Witty, eloquent, of commanding person- 
ality, and filled with the Holy Ghost, he was perhaps 
the most effective man in the itinerant ranks in his 
day. He barely missed election to the episcopacy in 
1800; and it was he who as early as 1791 first sketched 
a plan for a delegated General Conference. This was 
seventeen years before Soule drafted the Constitution 
of Methodism. Lee and Asbury were strikingly un- 
like in mold and temperament, but they were able to co- 
operate in many great enterprises ; yet, alas ! too often 
their differences of mold and temperament caused un- 
happy misunderstandings to arise between them. 

Asbury's circuit widened each year until it reached 
the limit of possible movement in that primitive time. 
Judging from his journal, however, the year between 
the Conferences of 1783 and those of 1784 seems to 
have been an exception ; nevertheless, he covered much 
the same ground in Virginia and Carolina as he had 
in the previous year, and but for an ulcerated foot he 
would have crossed the mountains into the lands of 
the Holston. He had previously visited the stations 
in the North, including New York, from which he had 
been absent for several years, and which had been 
without a preacher during the British occupation. A 

ii2 Francis Asbury. 

few months prior to his visit John Dickins had been 
sent thither to renew the work. 

Coming events were now casting distinct shadows. 
A letter came to Asbury from Mr. Wesley in Decem- 
ber appointing him to be General Assistant, a position 
which he had been filling by election of his brethren 
since 1780. Either through this letter or other medium 
intimation had been given of Mr. Wesley's maturing 
plans. It was known that he was asking ordination for 
his preachers at the hands of the bishops of the Estab- 
lishment. Indeed, the denoument of the Christmas 
Conference would no doubt have occurred in 1782 ex- 
cept for the refusal of the Anglican prelates to lay 
hands on the diplomaless Methodists. Thus the secret 
of the failure of Methodism to remain an adjunct of 
the Anglican Church was a matter of Greek roots and 
sheepskins. A mess of pottage changed the history 
of the ancient world, and made the Jewish Church 
possible. Providence is wiser than men. 

The Conference met in the spring of 1784 in the con- 
fident belief that the deliverance of the long-distressed 
societies was near at hand. Mr. Wesley's letter was 
laid before the two sittings, and "all were happy." The 
Conference was now united, compact, and dominated 
by a spirit of absolute devotion. The members have 
been described as men "dead to the world" and gifted 
and enterprising in the things of God. The number 
of members reported in society lacked but a round 
dozen of being fifteen thousand, with ninety-three itin- 
erant preachers. This Conference practically closed 
the Colonial period of American Methodism. The 
history-making Christmas Conference was but seven 
months off. 


An Apostle by Proof. 

The careful stuck nt ma}- discover in the destiny- 
used men of all times a quality of personality which 
suggests a truer philosophical basis of history than 
do the data arranged by either Buckle or Guizot. That 
quality is the ability of the actor in history not only to 
see the supreme opportunity when it is presented, but 
to rise to the height of its tests and requirements. This 
was the quality of Francis Asbury that stood him in 
the stead of genius. His sincerity of purpose and in- 
stant preparation of life were something more than 
the fruit of even religious loyalty. They were the 
manifestation of the spirit of history, the answer to 
the intelligent ordering and execution of the plans of 
Providence. The doctrine of immanences would be 
a contradiction, an absurdity, if it could not vindicate 
itself in this way. 

Asbury had been slowly prepared for the supreme 
exigency of his life. Destiny was bound up in him, and 
the time was fast approaching. The Christmas Con- 
ference, of which as yet no Methodist in Europe or 
America had dreamed, was about to be called. The 
time when a new and boldly conceived ecclesiasticism, 
with an apostolic and reversionary type of orders, was 
to emerge from the somewhat complicated conditions 
and relations of the Methodisms of the Old and the 
New World was now but a matter of weeks. Asbury, 
who had created the possibilities upon which these 
8 (113) 

H4 Francis Asbury. 

things were predicable, was the pivot upon which their 
enactment was to turn. 

Immediately after the treaty of peace, which gave 
independence to the American Colonies, Mr. Wesley 
was able to read the necessity for a new and democrat- 
ic ecclesiasticism befitting the spirit of the young re- 
public. But in this, as in all his enterprises, he moved 
slowly, and took but one step at a time. He had long 
had a desire to visit America in person, but the seven 
years of war had put that thought beyond him. He 
was now advanced in years much beyond fourscore, 
and must needs commit to another the offices in which 
he would fain himself have served his children beyond 
the Atlantic. Early in 1784 he settled upon Dr. Thom- 
as Coke, a Welshman by birth, a graduate of Oxford, 
and an ordained clergyman of the Church of England, 
for this work. Coke was not only the son of a fam- 
ily of high social rank, but he had inherited an ample 
fortune. Possessed of a naturally ambitious spirit, he 
entered politics on leaving the university, but soon 
took orders and was settled as curate in a middle Eng- 
lish parish. He expected to rise to distinction in the 
Establishment, and would no doubt have done so, but 
was convicted of sin under his own preaching, and on 
seeking the aid of a Methodist class leader found ease- 
ment of his burden, and began to preach with evangel- 
ical fervor and directness. He was at once accused of 
being a Methodist, and was shortly afterwards dis- 
missed from his curacy. With but little delay, he 
visited Mr. Wesley, whom he had not before seen. His 
gifts, learning, and deep religious experience at once 
commended him to the now aged leader of Methodism, 
who had long been looking about for a successor to be 

An Apostle by Proof. 115 

trained to leadership under his own eye. At one time 
he thought to lay this responsibility on Fletcher, his 
saintly associate ; but Fletcher could never be brought 
to consent to the arrangement. At a glance Wesley 
saw in Coke the man divinely provided. Fie was un- 
der thirty years of age, bore the seal of the Spirit, and 
had been, like himself, thrust out to learn the will of 
God in persecutions and afflictions. He therefore at 
once invited Coke to meet the preachers in Conference, 
and from that day to the end of Wesley's life no man 
was so much in his counsels as the gifted Welshman. 

The subject of the mission to America was broached 
to Coke as early as February, 1784. It was then that 
Wesley first expounded to him his long-settled belief 
that as a presbyter he had, according to usage in the 
primitive Church, the same right to ordain that he had 
to administer the sacraments, and explained that in 
view of his failure to secure relief from the Bishops 
of the Establishment he felt justified in exercising his 
scriptural right to provide ordained ministers for the 
societies in America. The simple and unconventional 
proposition, therefore, was that Dr Coke should ac- 
cept from Wesley's hands ordination to the episcopacy, 
and proceed with that authority to America to ordain 
a ministry and superintend the societies. The sugges- 
tion was at first received by Coke with misgivings. By 
April of the same year he had, however, reached a 
favorable state of mind, and, while expressing doubts 
as to his fitness for the work, submitted himself to 

At the Wesleyan Conference for the year, which met 
at Leeds in August, the matter of the mission was con- 
cluded, though the question of ordination was left 

u6 Francis Asbary. 

open. The preachers were not favorable to the idea, 
but for that Mr. Wesley considered himself solely re- 
sponsible. Dr. Coke, Richard Whatcoat, and Thomas 
Vasey were selected for the American work, and be- 
gan at once to make preparations for their voyage. 

After the Conference Mr. Wesley repaired to Bris- 
tol, and Dr. Coke set off for London. Some days later 
■he addressed a letter to Mr. Wesley, fully accepting 
his views with reference to the proposed ordination, 
and expressing the opinion that his mission could be 
satisfactorily accomplished under no less authority 
than that which Mr. Wesley had offered to confer. 
The result of this letter was that Mr. Wesley wrote 
to Coke asking his immediate presence in Bristol and 
directing him to bring with him the Rev. Mr. Creigh- 
ton, a presbyter of the Church of England, who had 
often preached in the London chapels and who was in 
complete accord with Wesley's work and policies. 

On the arrival of Dr. Coke and Mr. Creighton in 
Bristol Wesley reviewed the arguments for the step 
he was about to take, which arguments he had pon- 
dered for more than a score of years, and then with 
the assistance of the two clergymen ordained Richard 
Whatcoat and Thomas Vasey presbyters for America. 
"Being peculiarly attached to every rite of the Church 
of England," he thereafter, with the assistance of 
Creighton, ordained Dr. Coke superintendent or bish- 
op for the work in America, and gave him "letters of 
ordination under his hand and seal." 

In this act the Founder of Methodism contradicted 
the prejudices of a lifetime to follow the straitly 
marked path of Providence. In the office of conse- 
crator he acted not as the Churchman, but as the effi- 

An Apostle by Proof. ny 

cient agent of a history that had come to the point 
of its outgoing. He was impelled to an act which, 
though he had appraised and judged it in advance, he 
was at little pains to publicly vindicate. That was for 
all future times to do. He was shut up to do what he 
did. The reasons in hand and the logic of history were 
sufficient ; the results were to pass to other years and 
other generations. 

It thus happens that the orders and authority of the 
ministry of Episcopal Methodism rest upon both an 
apostolic and historic basis. The type is demonstrably 
apostolic, and the historic identification is both succes- 
sional and instant in historic necessity. They are, in 
fact, the recovery and restoration of those simple apos- 
tolic methods and functions which were displaced by 
constrained interpretations of the evangel. The status 
of Methodist ordinations in the three offices of the 
ministry is forever settled in the logic of which these 
statements are a brief setting forth. The hierarchical 
cavil in opposition has multiplied itself into unprofita- 
ble volumes ; but the canons of Methodism, settled in 
history and providence, are beyond repeal, and find a 
larger vindication every year. 

But large as were the reasonings which guided the 
mind of Wesley in planning for a new ecclesiastical 
order in America, and wholly as he rested in the cer- 
tainty of the divine approval, the human center of his 
confidence was the personality of Francis Asbury. The 
whole scheme of the organization, so far as any details 
were anticipated, revolved around that personality ; 
and when the hour of determination came, it was 
found that the weight and influence of that personality 
were supreme. This was unquestionably the scale of 

1 18 Francis Asbary. 

the Petrine primacy in the apostolic community. It 
was not hierarchical or ecclesiastical precedency, but 
the ascendency of personality. Personality is the basis 
of the priesthood of history 

A writer from whom I have already quoted sketches 
a picture of Asbury as he stood amongst his brethren 
at the moment Wesley was shaping to a conclusion his 
plans for the settlement of the societies in the New 
World, and only a few months before the arrival of 
Coke bearing the Magna Charta of American Metho- 
dism. This writer says : "Among the pioneers Asbury, 
by common consent, stood first and chief. There was 
something in his person, his eye, his mien, and in the 
music of his voice which interested all who heard him. 
He possessed much natural wit, and was capable of 
the severest satire ; but grace and good sense so far 
predominated that he never descended to anything be- 
neath the dignity of a man and a Christian." 

This was the figure which to the vision of Wesley 
loomed large in the foreground of the possibilities of 
Methodism in America. It was faith in this man that 
led him to consent to so large an independency for the 
societies and to so radical a departure for their gov- 

Dr. Coke, in company with his associates, Whatcoat 
and Vasey, arrived in New York on November 3, 1784. 
No official information concerning this mission had 
been sent to America, and the arrival of the missiona- 
ries was, in consequence, unexpected. Mr. Asbury, 
who, after the Conference held at Baltimore in the 
previous spring, had ridden through the Valley of Vir- 
ginia and parts of Pennsylvania, had been in New 
York as late as September ; but his stay had been short, 

An Apostle by Proof. 1 19 

and he was now touring through the ever-fruitful dis- 
tricts of the Peninsula. While in New York he had 
learned through letters received from England by John 
Dickins, the preacher in charge, something of the plans 
of Mr. Wesley, and he had also had an intimation cf 
the coming of Dr. Coke. But the information was too 
indefinite to more than feed a hope that sometime — 
possibly soon — the help so long prayed for by the soci- 
eties would come. He had not even attempted to fore- 
cast the character of the relief to be provided. 

Immediately on his arrival in New York Dr. Coke 
disclosed the secret of his commission to Dickins, and 
that well-taught and enthusiastic reformer advised 
him to proclaim it at once. But the legate of Wesley 
could only reply that Mr. Asbury was first to be "most 
respectfully consulted concerning every part of the 
plan and its execution." He accordingly, after a very 
brief delay, set out to seek Mr. Asbury in the South, 
where, like another Elisha, his hand was upon the 
plow in the furrowed field. The first stage of the 
journey ended at Philadelphia, where a short stop was 
made, and where Dr. Coke was cordially received not 
only by the members of the society, but also by two 
resident Episcopal clergymen, Dr. McGaw, who had 
cooperated with Asbury in Delaware, and Dr. White, 
who afterwards became the Protestant Episcopal 
Bishop of Pennsylvania. Pushing on southward, Coke 
and his two companions came on November "14, ten 
days after their debarkation at New York, to Barrett's 
Chapel, a country preaching place where the famous 
meeting between Coke and Asbury occurred. 

Asbury had learned of Dr. Coke's arrival and also 
of his southern progress, and had set out to meet him. 

120 Francis Asbury. 

Barrett's Chapel was a brick structure, and the most 
pretentious country meetinghouse of the Methodists 
in America. It was Sunday, and the occasion of a 
quarterly meeting. "A noble congregation" was pres- 
ent, additional advertising having been done when it 
was discovered that so distinguished a preacher was 
to be present. When Asbury reached the chapel, the 
service was already well advanced, so that he had no 
opportunity to speak to Dr. Coke until the conclusion 
of the sermon. The communion was celebrated, and 
Asbury was greatly surprised to see Whatcoat, whom 
he supposed to be only a la}- preacher, take the cup in 
the administration. When the service was over, a 
memorable scene occurred, which is effectively de- 
scribed in Coke's own words: "After the sermon a 
plain, robust man came up to me in the pulpit, and, 
kissed me. I thought it could be no other than Mr. 
Asbury, and in this I was not deceived." An eyewit- 
ness says that the other preachers were melted by the 
scene "into sweet sympathy and tears," and that the 
whole assembly, as if struck "with a shock of heav- 
enly electricity, burst into a flood of tears." 

Coke and Asbury were entertained together at the 
Barrett home, not above a mile from the chapel, where, 
as soon as they were in private. Coke opened the nature 
of his mission. This was simply to ordain Asbury to 
the episcopacy that they might thereafter ordain the 
preachers, or so many as might be necessary to supplv 
the ordinances to the societies, and that the whole work 
might have a scriptural basis and a scripturally consti- 
tuted superintendency. Neither Wesley nor Coke had 
provided beyond this for the organization of a Church, 
showing how much had been trusted to the judgment 

An Apostle by Proof. 121 

and initiative of Asbury. He met the exigency with- 
out hesitation. Indeed, although he had but an imper- 
fect understanding of Coke's instructions, he had al- 
ready provided for a council of preachers to receive 
and pass upon the matters submitted. When Dr. Coke 
opened to him the plan of a joint superintendency and 
the ordinations, he was at first shocked, the departure 
being so radically contradictory of his preconceived 
High-church notions. He determined at the outset to 
do nothing without the consent and votes of the preach- 
ers ; and most of all was he determined not to accept 
the general superintendency without election by the 
whole body of his fellow-itinerants. 

A council was accordingly called, and the letter* of 

*The text of this famous letter follows — viz : 

"Bristol, September 10, 1784. 
"To Dr. Coke, Mr. Asbury. and Our Brethren in North 

"By a very uncommon train of providences many of the 
provinces of North America are totally disjoined from the 
mother country and erected into independent States. The 
English government has no authority over them, either civil 
or ecclesiastical, any more than over the States of Holland. 
A civil authority is exercised over them, partly by the Con- 
gress, partly by the provincial assemblies. But no one either 
exercises or claims any ecclesiastical authority at all. In this 
peculiar situation some thousands of the inhabitants of these 
States desire mj' advice, and in compliance with their desire I 
have drawn up a little sketch. 

"Lord King's account of the primitive Church convinced 
me many years ago that bishops and presbyters are the same 
order, and consequently have the same right to ordain. For 
many years I have been importuned from time to time to 
exercise this right by ordaining part of our traveling preach- 
ers. But I have still refused not only for peace's sake, but 

122 Francis Asbury. 

Mr. Wesley and the statement of his legate were laid 
before it. The decision was that a general Conference 
should be called to convene in Baltimore at Christmas- 
tide. Freeborn Garrettson was commissioned to sum- 
mon the hosts for the moot. Riding north and south, 
he spread the call so widely that long before the time 
appointed every itinerant in America, with possibly a 
single exception, had heard. That exception was Jesse 
Lee, who was laboring in the far South. 

In the meantime Asbury planned extensive preach- 
ing itineraries for himself and Dr. Coke during the 
six weeks that remained before the Conference should 
sit. Fitting Dr Coke out with a horse, he added 
"Black Harry," his own servant, a negro lay preacher, 
who, though ignorant of letters, was famous for native 

because I was determined as little as possible to violate the 
established order of the national Church, to which I belonged. 
''But the case is widely different between England and 
North America. Here are bishops who have a legal jurisdic- 
tion. In America there are none, neither any parish ministers ; 
so that for some hundreds of miles together there is none 
either to baptize or administer the Lord's Supper. Here, 
therefore, my scruples are at an end, and I conceive myself 
at full liberty, as I violate no order and invade no man's 
right, by appointing and sending laborers into the harvest. 

"I have accordingly appointed Dr. Coke and Mr. Francis 
Asbury to be joint superintendents over our brethren in 
North America, as also Richard Whatcoat and Thomas Vasey 
to act as elders among them by baptizing and administering 
the Lord's Supper. And I have prepared a liturgy, little dif- 
fering from that of the Church of England (I think the best 
constituted national Church in the world), which I advise all 
the traveling preachers to use on the Lord's day in all the 
congregations, reading the litany only on Wednesdays and 
Fridays and praying extempore on all other days. I also ad- 

An Apostle by Proof 123 

eloquence and a correct knowledge of the way of sal- 
vation. In this manner the first Protestant bishop of 
the New World traveled over a large part of his dio- 
cese, preaching, baptizing, and administering the sacra- 
ment of the Hoi}' Communion to the people so long 
deprived of the ordinances. He was received every- 
where with enthusiasm and hospitality. The homes 
of the great people were opened to him, and multitudes 
thronged to hear his fervent and powerful sermons. 
He himself estimates that on this tour he baptized more 
people than he would likely have baptized in a curacy 
in England during a lifetime. For his own part As- 
bury claimed during much of the tour planned for 
himself the companionship of Whatcoat and Vasey. 
As he journeyed his mind was engaged with the busi- 

vise the elders to administer the Supper of the Lord on every 
Lord's day. 

"If any one will point out a more rational and scriptural 
way of feeding and guiding these poor sheep in the wilder- 
ness, I will gladly embrace it. At present I cannot see any 
better method than that I have taken. 

"It has indeed been proposed to desire the English bishops 
to ordain part of our preachers for America. But to this I 
object: 1. I desired the Bishop of London to ordain one, but 
could not prevail. 2. If they consented, we know the slowness 
of their proceedings ; but the matter admits of no delay. 3. 
If they would ordain them now, they would expect to govern 
them. And how grievously would this entangle us ! 4. As 
our American brethren are now totally disentangled, both from 
the State and the English hierarchy, we dare not entangle 
them again either with the one or the other. They are now 
at full liberty simply to follow the Scriptures and the primi- 
tive Church. And .we judge it best that they should stand fast 
in that liberty wherewith God has so strangely made them 
free. John Wesley." 

r.?4 Francis Asbury. 

ness so soon to come up in the Conference. The 
preachers he found everywhere were pleased with the 
plan proposed. Why should they not be pleased ? Was 
it not the very course from which a majority of them 
had been estopped in 1780? The time also came when 
Asbury himself could say: "I am led to think it is of 
the Lord." But he was "not tickled with the honor 
to be gained ;" he feared there might be "danger in the 

During the month of December the lines of the two 
itineraries crossed several times, and the General Su- 
perintendent and his prospective associate had more 
than one interview touching their concerns. The most 
important of these junctions occurred at Abingdon, 
in the State of Maryland, where it was decided the 
first Methodist college in America should be built. 
Dr Coke was driven thither in the coach of Mr. Rich- 
ard Dallam, a planter, who was in sympathy with the 
Methodists. Asbury had already broached the idea of 
such an institution, and the land for the same had 
been secured. It was now definitely agreed that it was 
to be called Cokesbury College in honor of the two 
superintendents, and to raise money for its erection 
and endowment was to be amongst their first official 

At each successive meeting of Coke and Asbury the 
reserved and self-taught pioneer grew upon the college- 
bred Churchman and ecclesiastical diplomat. In his 
journal Coke wrote : "I exceedingly reverence Mr. As- 
bury ; he has so much wisdom and consideration, so 
much meekness and love ; and under all this, though 
hardly to be perceived, so much command and author- 

Aii Apostle by Proof. 125 

On December 17 Coke and Asbury met at "Perry 
Hall," that ever serene retreat, and completed their 
plans for the Conference. Dr. Coke speaks of the 
"noble room" provided for him and of his week's stay 
in that hospitable mansion. Whatcoat joined them on 
the 19th, and the next day they began the revision of 
the "Rules and Minutes" — that is, the adaptation of 
the "Large Minutes" of the English Conference to the 
needs of the soon-to-be-organized American Church. 
With such recensions of the Wesleyan categories As- 
bury was already familiar ; so the three made satisfac- 
tory progress. 

The Conference began its sittings in Lovely Lane 
Chapel, Baltimore, on December 24, at ten o'clock in 
the morning. Dr. Coke took the chair, and directed 
the opening services, which were simple and impress- 
ive. It is believed that about sixty of the more than 
ninety American preachers were present. Some were 
prevented from attending by the floods and snows, 
while others received the notice too late to cover the 
distances that separated them from the meeting place. 
Several lists of the personnel of the Conference have 
been compiled, but none is believed to be complete. 
The detailed official records of the session are not ex- 
tant, but the order of procedure has been established 
from the printed minutes and the book of Discipline 
of 1785, and from other sources. 

On Friday, the 24th, was read the official letter of 
Air. Wesley. This letter, which has already been re- 
ferred to as the Magna Charta of American Metho- 
dism, reviewed in order the rise of the American re- 
public, the consequent dissolution of the Church es- 
tablishment in the former Colonies, and the fact that 

126 Francis Asbury. 

Wesley had been appealed to by the Methodists in the 
new republic for advice and help. It then cited the 
authority which had convinced Wesley of his right to 
ordain, following upon which was announced the ap- 
pointment of Dr. Coke and Mr. Asbury to be joint 
superintendents, and Mr. Whatcoat and Mr. Vasey to 
act as elders in connection with the work in America. 
Concluding with a friendly challenge and a brief sum- 
mary, the letter commits the societies "simply to fol- 
low the Scriptures and the primitive Church." 

After the reading of this letter discussion of the title 
and organization cf the new Church was begun, and 
"without agitation" these matters were brought to a 
satisfactory issue at the afternoon session. As Mr. 
Wesley had expressed his preference for an "episco- 
pally governed Church," it was decided to call the new 
organization the Methodist Episcopal Church, "making 
the episcopal office elective and the elected superintend- 
ent or bishop amenable to the body of ministers and 

On Saturday, the 25th, a vote was taken on the 
question of the election of Dr. Coke and Mr. Asbury 
to the superintendency. The vote being affirmative, 
Mr. Asbury was on the same day ordained by Dr. Coke 
to the diaconate, the function being attended with 
preaching and an appropriate ritual. On Sunday, the 
26th, he was made an elder by the imposition of the 
same hands, and on Monday he was formally conse- 
crated a bishop or general superintendent. These of- 
fices were simple and unostentatious, but as historic 
events they have acquired an extraordinary signifi- 
cance. In the episcopal consecration of A.sbury Dr. 
Coke was assisted by his two presbyter associates, 

An Apostle by Froof- 127 

Richard Whatcoat and Thomas Vasey, and also by the 
Rev. William Philip Otterbein, Asbury's close and 
faithful friend. 

Three days, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 
were mainly taken up with the work of passing upon 
revisions of the English Minutes and the framing 
therefrom of a Discipline for the use of the new 
Church. These actions included the adoption of the 
revised Prayer Book, or "Sunday Service," as it was 
called, which Wesley had prepared and printed for the 
use of the American societies. In addition to the 
abridged Anglican liturgy and else this book contained 
the original Twenty-Four Wesleyan Articles of Reli- 
gion, an abridgment of the Thirty-Nine Articles of 
the Anglican Confession. The Conference added an 
article, "Of the Rulers of the United States of Amer- 
ica,"* which is XXIII. of our Confession, thus mak- 
ing the number twenty-five ; hence "the Twenty-Five 

This work ended, the Conference proceeded to the 
election of a number of the preachers to serve in the 
offices of deacon and elder. Dr. Coke testifies that these 
elections were conducted with great impartiality, with- 
out show of self-seeking on the part of the preachers, 
all of whom were young men and men who had barely 
reached middle life. Asbury's journal says that twelve 
elders were elected, but the number appears to have 
been even larger. The title of "presiding elder" did not 

*This Article was subsequently amended, and a vote is being 
taken this year (1909) in the Southern Conferences for a 
further amendment, so as to adapt it to use in lands where the 
Church has mission fields. 

128 Francis Asbury. 

then come into use; but these elders were, it was un- 
derstood, to be located with reference to groups of 
societies or circuits so as to give the sacraments tc the 
people and complete the plan for a general oversight 
of the work. The presiding eldership is thus integrant 
in the polity of episcopal Methodism. It is an essen- 
tial part of the episcopacy, which is not so much an 
office as an idea. The episcopacy does not inhere in 
a personal incumbent, but in an episcopal body con- 
sisting of the general superintendents, or bishops, and 
the district superintendents, or presiding elders. The 
office of presiding elder had its genesis in the ordina- 
tion by Mr. Wesley of Whatcoat and Vasey to serve 
with Coke in America. They were not called presiding 
elders, neither was Coke styled a bishop. At that time 
Mr. Wesley had but a general notion as to the shape 
the government of the Church in America would take. 
It is certain that the episcopacy took a somewhat dif- 
ferent shape from that which he contemplated ; but the 
norm of our episcopacy is his consecration of Thomas 
Coke. Likewise was there a. definite officiality implied 
in the setting apart of Whatcoat and Vasey to the eld- 
ership. Their investiture was the complement of Mr. 
Wesley's idea of a general superintendency. 

The American Conference emphasized the officiality 
of the superintendency by electing both Coke and As- 
bury by a majority vote. At the same time the Con- 
ference elected certain men to the eldership with the 
understanding that they were not only to administer 
the ordinances, but were to be superintendents of dis- 
tricts or groups of circuits. It is true that the official 
duties of the "superintendent elders" were few and 
simple, but so were also the official duties of the bish- 

An Apostle by Proof. 129 

ops. The responsibilities of both offices increased rap- 
idly and in a direction that was not clearly foreseen at 
the beginning. This was that logical and providential 
development which marks the fitness of the comple- 
menting offices. 

The Conference had thus in the space of a single 
week rounded the outlines of and set upon its historic 
way the most extraordinary and effective Church or- 
ganization of modern times. On Friday a number of 
deacons were ordained, and on Saturday, January 1, 
1785, the question of the college at Abingdon was con- 
sidered, voted upon favorably, and a subscription was 
taken for the same. On Sunday, January 2, twelve 
preachers, previously ordained deacons, were ordained 
to the eldership, and on Monday, January 3, "the Con- 
ference ended in great peace and unanimity." 


Pledging History. 

It was now General Superintendent Asbury. But 
the simplicity of the man of unworldly ideals and pur- 
poses was unaffected by the new dignity. If there was 
a rising of pride or self-gratulation, it was quickly 
repressed. A characteristic introspection came with 
the quiet which succeeded the haste and labors of the 
Conference. Concerning the feelings revealed by that 
inquisition he wrote: "My mind was unsettled, and I 
was but low in my own testimony." Five days later 
he made this entry in his journal : "I am sometimes 
afraid of being led to think something more of myself 
in my new station than formerly-" The preventive 
against an assertion of self was to dedicate himself to 
be more than ever the servant of his brethren. 

But to one impulse born of his new relation he gave 
the freest rein — a hunger for wider conquests and a 
more rapid spread of the gospel. What had been be- 
fore but a hope became now a plan for immediate 
realization. Even before the close of the Christmas 
Conference he had cast his eyes southward and south- 
westward to the very limits of the continent, and out- 
lined his first episcopal tour on a scale commensurate 
with his expanded vision. He had already, three years 
before, penetrated North Carolina and planted stations 
in the fertile valleys of its great rivers, and even be- 
yond the crests of its intersecting mountains. Now he 
determined to ride beyond the farthest Methodist out- 
posts an;! come to those parts in South Carolina and 

Pledging History. 131 

Georgia that had known, nearly fifty years before, the 
labors of "the Oxford Methodists." Charleston and 
even Savannah were objectives in the plan of this first 
episcopal circuit. 

The Christmas Conference adjourned at noon Janu- 
ary 3, and on the evening of that day Asbury preached 
the first sermon after his ordination. The next day 
he took the saddle. Dr. Coke was to go immediately 
to New York to superintend the printing of the offi- 
cial Minutes of the Conference and the new Form of 
Discipline — the first of those unique and potent little 
volumes that have had so large a place in the rever- 
ence of millions of Americans. 

The initial stage of Asbury's journey carried him 
into central Virginia, where he performed his first 
episcopal office, the ordination to the diaconate of Rev. 
Henry Willis. Willis had been in charge of the work 
in the Holston Valley. He had been elected to the 
eldership by the Christmas Conference, but was una- 
ble to reach the place of meeting. From this point 
Asbury drafted, him to be his traveling companion, and 
ten days later, at a church near the North Carolina 
line, ordained him a presbyter. 

Services were held by the General Superintendent 
almost daily, and at these the ordinances were admin- 
istered. Hundreds of infants and adults were bap- 
tized, and the people long without the communion were 
made glad to receive the bread and wine at the hands 
of their own chief minister. Asbury at this time wore 
in the administrations and when discoursing the gown 
and bands of a presbyter of the Church of England, 
and used the abridged Prayer Book. This conformity 
was grateful to "the old Church folks" — that is, the 

132 Francis Asbury. 

former Anglicans, who then constituted the great body 
of American Methodists. The catholic-spirited Pres- 
byterians also welcomed the Methodist overseer, and, 
being largely destitute of pastoral attention, gladly re- 
ceived the ordinances at his hands. With the immer- 
sionists it was different ; they demurred. In a spirit 
of conciliation, Asbury began to plunge such candi- 
dates for baptism as preferred that mode ; but before 
the end of the year the practice was discontinued. 

On February 10 Asbury and his chaplain (so wc 
may describe Willis) reached Salisbury, where the in- 
domitable Jesse Lee was in charge. The gowns and 
bands displeased him greatly, and he satirized the in- 
novation so mercilessly that Asbury abandoned it, and, 
it is claimed, never again appeared in public arrayed 
in any character of canonical frippery. Only a little 
while, in fact, did the Prayer Book foible obtain. Nei- 
ther it nor the surplice was suited to the homely and 
impromptu spirit of American Methodism. Ritualism 
is a historic sign of spiritual decadence, and Methodism 
had then the dew of its youth. 

From Salisbury Lee accompanied the General Super- 
intendent and his traveling companion into South Car- 
olina. Passing through the Cheraws, they reached the 
sea at Georgetown, from which point they passed along 
the coast toward Charleston, where they arrived on 
February 24. Somewhat more than two weeks were 
spent in the Southern metropolis, whose people Asbury 
found to be proud and religiously indifferent. Never- 
theless, the gospel which he and his two helpers pro- 
claimed made "a gracious impression" upon some, es- 
pecially upon the family of Mr. Wells, a prosperous 
merchant of the place, whose guests they were during 

Pledging History. 133 

their stay. The seeds were sown ; a society was organ- 
ized later, and placed under the charge of Elder Willis, 
and Charleston became from that day one of the im- 
portant posts of Methodism. 

From Charleston the northward course returned 
through Georgetown, where a station was also estab- 
lished, and where Woolam Hickson, "a man of brilliant 
genius and fine enthusiasm," was put in charge. This 
remarkable man died a year or two later of consump- 
tion. Wilmington was visited on March 19, and on 
April 20 Asbury and Lee reached Green Hill's, on Tar 
River, in North Carolina. Green Hill was a wealthy 
planter, a slaveholder, and a local Methodist preacher. 
His position was an anomalous one in view of the 
Methodist rule in force at that time ; but he was a 
man of God, and wrought and hoped for the perfect 
coming of the kingdom. In after years he migrated 
to the Cumberland Valley and helped to plant and sup- 
port Methodism in that Eden of Middle Tennessee. 
At the Conference held in the spring of 1784 one of 
the three sittings appointed for 1785 was designated 
to meet at his house. The date in the Minutes is April 
29; but the session occurred nine days earlier. This 
was to accommodate Dr. Coke, who was present and 
presided ; while Asbury stationed the preachers, which 
he uniformly did, Dr. Coke deferring to his superior 
knowledge of the men and the field. 

This Conference, which has the distinction of being 
the first Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church 
after its organization, was held, according to appoint- 
ment, in Rev. Green Hill's house, which was spacious 
and comfortable. The entire membership of the Con- 
ference, including the two General Superintendents and 

134 Francis Asbury. 

about twenty preachers from Nnrth Carolina and Vir- 
ginia, were entertained under the same hospitable roof. 
The results of Asbury's tour are seen in the appoint- 
ments made at this Conference, such circuits as New 
River, Camden, Georgetown, Charleston, and Georgia 
appearing in the list for the first time. Beverly Allen 
was the man to whom "all Georgia" was given for a 
field. Alas that one who for a time was permitted to 
hold in the hollow of his hand the spiritual possibilities 
of a commonwealth should have ended his career so 
meanly ! But thus was history pledged in those begin- 
ning clays. Thus in that then remote Southwest was 
started the cause which through a century and a 
quarter has grown mightily in the records of the 

Ten days later the two General Superintendents at- 
tended together the Conference sitting in Virginia. 
The question of slavery was uppermost with the Meth- 
odists at this time, the occasion being a petition which 
the Conference was to send to the Virginia State As- 
sembly, asking for the immediate or gradual emancipa- 
tion of the slaves. '.It was agreed at the Virginia ses- 
sion that Coke and Asbury should visit General Wash- 
ington and solicit his aid in presenting this document. 
On May 26 they were courteously received and dined 
at Mount Vernon. Washington readily gave them his 
opinion on slavery, which was deprecatory ; but he 
declined to sign the petition. This appears to have 
been the end of the scheme, and at the Baltimore Con- 
ference, which occurred one week later, the minute 
on slavery was temporarily suspended. The temperate 
judgment of Washington on this question, expressed 
at a crucial hour, proved to be of immense advantage 

Pledging History. 135 

to Methodism. Profiting by his views, which were 
practically those of the Methodists of the South so long 
as slavery continued to be an institution, the Church 
entered upon an era of soberer legislation than had 
been in contemplation, and thus w::s left unhampered 
in its ministry to both master and skive. 

With the opening of the Baltimore Conference As- 
bury completed his first official round as General Su- 
perintendent. For the distance traveled, the labors 
accomplished, and the variety of offices performed, it 
was by far the most considerable and important single 
round he had ever made. But, as his after experiences 
proved, it was but the beginning of miracles in this 
line. With the close of the Conference, Dr. Coke took 
leave of the brethren in America, and sailed for En- 
gland to meet the criticisms of both Methodists and 
Churchmen when he arrived. The people in and out 
of the Establishment who at this time understood the 
merits of Wesley's plan for the settlement of Ameri- 
can Methodism could have been counted upon the fin- 
gers of the Founder's two hands. But Coke saw 
enough with his own eyes while in America to give 
him a confidence that no amount of mis judgment could 

Asbury was again alone in the headship of the 
Church. He also had upon his hands most of the 
problems which he had before Coke's coming, and 
not a few new ones. Among the latter none was more 
difficult than that of the projected college at Cokes- 
bury. A century and a quarter has shown that the 
building and endowing of a denominational college 
is an undertaking for men of the will and endurance 
of giants. Before Coke's coming Asbury had planned 

136 Francis Asbury. 

a school like Kingswood, in England ; but Coke wanted 
a college. The faith and intellectual responsiveness of 
Asbury embraced at once the idea of his collegian as- 
sociate, not dreaming of the unrewarded toils and haf- 
fled hopes for which it was to stand in his life. 

In June following the session of the Christmas Con- 
ference the foundations of the college building were 
laid, and Asbury preached at the commemoration. This 
sermon, delivered in the hot and open summer air, com- 
pleted a collapse upon the verge of which he had been 
trembling for some time. The invalidism which fol- 
lowed forced upon him a season of rest, which he 
spent partly at "Perry Hall" and partly at the Ameri- 
can Bath, the famous warm springs of Virginia. Being 
in a good degree recovered by midsummer, he was 
again active, but for the remainder of the year con- 
fined himself mainly to journeys in the Peninsula and 
contiguous parts. 

The order and arrangement of the lately published 
Form of Discipline became about this time a matter 
of criticism. On account of its lack of heads and di- 
visions the usefulness of the volume was greatly les- 
sened. This defect Asbury set himself to remedy, and 
out of his work has grown that order of sections, para- 
graphs, and indices that make the present-day Disci- 
pline an open book to the most inexperienced under- 
graduate in the ministry. 

The first Conference for 1786 was to be held at 
Salisbury, in February, and the journey thither was 
begun soon after New Year's. The advance was in a 
course crudely conforming to a great half circle, with 
Charleston on the outer plane of the arc. To detail 
the experiences of that long horseback ride across three 

Pledging History. 137 

commonwealths and back in midwinter would be to 
repeat details already made familiar in this narrative. 
But commonplace as they were, they played their part 
in a great apostolic plan. The sermons, private ap- 
peals, oversight, and spyings-out of vantages for fu- 
ture stations were like golden wheat grains cast in 
amongst the snow crystals and ice shards of a winter 
field to wake and fruit in after days. It was by such 
ploddings and toilings as these that the empire of 
Methodism was built up. 

In Asbury's journal of this year mention is made of 
a "Book Concern." This infant enterprise was under 
the care of John Dickins, an Etonian, of whose capa- 
bilities and attainments mention has already been made. 
This norm of vast and varied publishing interests to- 
day was at first simply a depository in one room of the 
preacher's house in Philadelphia for the few books, 
Disciplines, hymn books, Wesleyan standards, tracts, 
etc., which were in demand amongst the Methodists. 
But even at this time Asbury mentions that a collection 
was taken under that head. 

Another principal idea of Methodist propagandism 
began also to take root about this time. On April 30, 
1786, Asbury called for a public collection to provide 
funds for "sending missionaries to the Western settle- 
ments." In the simple means employed for handling 
and directing this collection is seen the remote parent- 
age of the many missionary societies of American 
Methodism, receiving and disbursing in the twentieth 
century millions of dollars yearly for the evangeliza- 
tion of the world. 

Asbury was now greatly cheered with the outlook 
of the Church. Not only the day of its liberation, but 

138 Francis slsbury. 

the day of its entering into heritage seemed to have 
come. With one accord the people hailed the new 
order. Church-building became general, the revival 
was spreading, and churchly enterprises of many sorts 
were taking shape. The new Discipline was working 
as though it had had a century of testing. The Meth- 
odist spirit was winning along with the spirit of the 
new nation. Prophecy occluded in the labors of the 
homely baud of Methodist itinerants. They published 
their message daily "in the face of the sun." 

The Baltimore session — the determinative and law- 
making council — opened on May 8 at Abingdon. It 
had been hoped to sit in the college ; but alas ! the walls 
were now "only fit for covering," and a debt of more 
than four thousand dollars had already accumulated. 
That was an incubus indeed. "And money is scarce!" 
sighed the weary Asbury as he remembered his toils 
past and his toils yet to come. It was enough to dis- 
comfit the most intrepid. As for Asbury, his training 
did not answer to the task, and for it he had no zest. 
He was a preacher, a kingdom builder, and not a money 
raiser or a college agent. Yet in these things he also 
laid a foundation. 

Sixty circuits were listed this year against forty-six 
at the time of the Christmas Conference. In the ap- 
pointments for the year appears for the first time the 
romantic name, "Kentucky." This was one of those 
"Western Settlements" for which the first regularly 
collected missionary money of the Church was appro- 
priated. In the year of the Christmas Conference fif- 
teen thousand members, with ninety-three preachers, 
had been reported; while at the Conferences of this 
year (1786) the returns had credited to the connection 

Pledging History. 139 

more than twenty thousand members and one hundred 
and seventeen pastors. 

The most noteworthy experience of Asbury during 
the remaining months of this year was a ride across 
the Alleghanies to a point on the Ohio River, where he 
went to satisfy himself of the prospects in that then 
most western west of America. As he went out he 
overrode the western-moving emigrant groups, and as 
he returned he met their ox-drawn caravans, and new 
he realized as never before the necessity for mobili- 
zing his forces toward the frontier Fie read a new 
meaning out of his own early motto : "A circulation of 
the preachers." But from this loud calling west he 
returned only to be mocked by a return, at frequent 
intervals, of his old maladies. Often they mastered 
him, and for whole fortnights together he was laid 
up ; but he rallied from each attack, and completed his 
convalescence in labors and travels through heat and 
cold, through drought and rain and snow. 

At Christmastide he v/as in Baltimore settling the 
yearly affairs of the "Book Concern," and struggling 
with that horse-leech problem, the Cokesbury College 
debt. Thousands had been spent upon the building, 
and still not a hall or a chamber was tenantable. But 
great duties lighten their own burdens through variety. 
With the new year he was off for another extended 
Southern tour, Charleston, as before, being the ob- 
jective. While passing through Virginia he was en- 
tertained by "a famous heroine of Christ," Mrs. Ball, 
who was a kinswoman of Mary, the mother of Wash- 
ington. She had espoused the faith as preached by the 
Methodists, and continued to the' end of her life a 
faithful exponent of the doctrines of the Church. The 

140 Francis Asbury. 

name of Ball is still an honored one in the Methodism 
of the Old Dominion. 

After a journey during which, as Bishop Hurst says, 
he showed "an infinite disregard of fatigue," Asbury 
came on March 15, 1787, to Charleston, where he met 
Dr. Coke, who had but lately arrived from England. 
From Charleston the two General Superintendents pro- 
ceeded together to Salisbury, where the first Confer- 
ence of the year was held some days later. The Min- 
utes of 1786 had fixed the date for May 17; but it 
was changed by Dr. Coke while yet in Europe to suit 
his traveling convenience, as were also the dates of the 
Conferences in Virginia and in Maryland, and thereby 
hangs a whole chapter of American Methodist history, 
further reference to which will be made as this narra- 
tive proceeds. 

Dr. Coke had not wholly pleased the Americans dur- 
ing the five months of his first official visit ; but they 
had not failed to see his good points, and indorsed him 
as an unselfish man and a zealous servant of the Mas- 
ter. The}'' also greatly respected his ability and learn- 
ing, and were justly proud of his championship. His 
aristocratic manners were atoned for by his cordial 
indorsement of the American republic and his ex- 
pressed admiration of its leaders ; but what the preach- 
ers secretly objected to was his betrayal of a sense of 
authority. They accepted the episcopacy with the un- 
derstanding that the incumbent of the office was to be 
the servant of his brethren, the first among equals. 
But Coke's ideal of the episcopacy was Anglican. 
Moreover, he understood that the government of the 
Church was to remain in the hands of Mr. Wesley in 
much the same way as that of the connection in En- 

Pledging History. 141 

gland. As the representative of Mr. Wesley, he there- 
fore felt that in America his power was that of a 
patriarch. This was not the view of either the preach- 
ers or Francis Asbury. From the beginning Asbury 
had questioned the wisdom of agreeing to obey a man 
three thousand miles away. 

The review at the Baltimore Conference — the deter- 
minative session — of the arbitrary action of Coke in 
changing the dates of the annual sittings brought this 
whole matter to an issue. The contest was sharp, and 
for a time "the little Doctor" attempted to justify his 
course. "You must consider yourselves my equals," he 
retorted sharply upon Nelson Reed, one of his aggres- 
sive critics in the Conference lists. "Yes, sir," was the 
spirited reply, "we do ; and we are not only the equals 
of Dr. Coke, but of Dr. Coke's King." There was too 
great a fire of Americanism burning in the bones of the 
"lesser clergy" for him to hold out. To satisfy his 
displeased and outspoken brethren he submitted a writ- 
ten pledge that he would exercise no function of his 
office while absent in Europe or elsewhere, and that he 
would lay claim to no authority when in America ex- 
cept to preside over the Conferences, ordain, and travel 
and preach in the connection. A record of this trans- 
action appears in the Minutes of this year. 

But a much more important matter than this, though 
one related to it, was this year determined by the joint 
action of the Virginia and Baltimore sessions. Mr. 
Wesley had instructed Dr. Coke to call a General Con- 
ference to meet at Baltimore May 1, 1787, and had 
requested the election of Richard Whatcoat to the 
joint superintendency with Asbury, and Freeborn Gar- 
rettson for superintendent in Nova Scotia. At the 

142 Francis Asbury. 

Christmas Conference the preachers had by a unani- 
mous vote bound themselves "during the lifetime of the 
Rev. Mr. Wesley to obey his commands in matters be- 
longing to Church government." Here was an embar- 
rassing record. Some of the preachers, seeing that 
they were not present when the agreement was entered 
into, refused to be bound by it. The general interpre- 
tation was that the agreement referred to the forms of 
polity and administration, and not to those details of 
election and legislation which come properly under 
these forms. The utmost that the agreement was 
thought to signify was the union of world-wide Metho- 
dism under Mr. Wesley during his lifetime. It was 
now plain that the action had been a mistake. The 
time had come to undo it. 

The result was that no General Conference was held. 
The nominations of Mr. Wesley were not considered, 
and furthermore, by formal action, the rule of sub- 
mission to Mr. Wesley was stricken from the Disci- 
pline. The revised and rearranged Book of Discipline 
upon which General Superintendent Asbury and Book 
Steward John Dickins had been at work since 1785 
was published immediately after the Conference of 
1787, and conforms to the several actions above de- 
scribed. Thus it was that the autonomy and independ- 
ency of American Methodism were asserted, and its 
constitution prophesied within two and one-half years 
after the adjournment of the Christmas Conference. 
The powers of the episcopacy had been defined and 
settled, and the rights of the preachers reserved. 

It was also by action of the Conference of this year 
that the official title, General Superintendent, was ren- 
dered into its equivalent as used in the English Scrip- 

Pledging History. 143 

tures, and General Superintendent Asbury became 
Bishop Asbury. As for his associate in office, the 
honorary title of Doctor was then so rare a dignity 
that the Methodists in both hemispheres declined to 
know him otherwise than as Doctor Coke. 

The five bishops of the Church between Coke and 
Soule lived and died without honorary degrees, and 
almost without exception the men of their generation 
also wore unembe'llished names. How different the 
case to-day ! Titles which in the times of the fathers 
stood for exceptional attainments in scholarship and 
learning have now come to be so promiscuously and 
even recklessly conferred that they are no longer a 
certain guarantee of even respectable literary equip- 

Wrestling with Great Problems. 

On New Year's Day, 1788, Bishop Asbury surveyed 
an Episcopal see as great in area as the continent of 
Europe outside of Russia. It stretched from Nova 
Scotia on the northeast to the limits of Georgia on 
the south, and westward in all directions as far as the 
overseer might ride or an itinerant might range. As- 
bury was alone in the administration of this vast 
charge, his colleague having returned to Europe some 
time after the Conference of 1787. 

The tour which Asbury now planned for himself 
was to be twice the length of that of any former year, 
and was to occupy a period of more than nine months. 
A map of the completed journey resembles somewhat 
the outlines of a mighty hourglass with its extreme 
points at New York and the forks of the Broad River 
in Georgia. Six Conference sittings had been appoint- 
ed for the year — namely, South Carolina, Georgia, Hol- 
ston, Virginia, Uniontown (Pa.), and Baltimore. Be- 
sides these, however, two additional sessions were 
called by episcopal prerogative, one in Philadelphia and 
one in New York. The first Conference was held in 
Charleston on March 12, and the last at New York 
near the first of October 

As the Bishop left Virginia, in midwinter, upon the 
first stage of his tour, the whole State was ablaze with 
revival — "up to that time the most remarkable awaken- 
ing in America under the preaching of the Methodist 
itinerants." Refreshed and fired from contact with 

Wrestling with Great Problems. 145 

the testifying multitudes to whom he preached as he 
passed, he went forth to sound the call on the new and 
ever-changing frontier. His course was over paths 
that he knew through the Carolinas ; then he crossed 
the broad Savannah, and entered into regions both 
strange and wild. There he rallied the vanguard, and 
sent them forth to spy out the land and set stakes in 
the virgin soil. 

Leaving in Georgia the handful of pioneer preach- 
ers and exhorters who constituted the first Georgia 
Conference, with his companion and a pack horse, he 
started across the Blue Ridge and its companion ranges 
for the romantic lands of the Holston, a region to 
which his thoughts had often turned. The undertaking 
was by far the most formidable he had yet faced, but 
the confidence with which he entered upon it had a 
vaster stay than that which supported the boast of Na- 
poleon when he said : "There shall be no Alps." En- 
countering first the main axis of the Appalachians, he 
named it the Mountain of Steel. Striking later the 
escarpments of the Unakas and Great Smokies, he 
named them the Mountains of Stone and Iron. But 
once arrived in the historic valley, he found in the 
home of General Russell, a famous pioneer and sol- 
dier, a rest which caused him to forget his toils. There 
he met the preachers, and was blessed with a forevision 
of what was soon to be in those ultramontane lands. 

But of mountain passing he had but begun to have a 
taste. From the Holston sitting of the Conference he 
turned his face eastward, and crossed the Balsam range 
into North Carolina. After holding the Virginia Con- 
ference, at Petersburg, he turned again northwestward, 
and crossed the Alleghanies into the far-off Valley of 

146 Francis Asbury. 

the Ohio, to which he had sent missionaries as early 
as 1781. There was now in that isolated field a suffi- 
cient work to justify the calling of a Conference, and 
this he did, presiding at the sitting while on this jour- 

For the year 1789 fully a dozen Conferences had 
been appointed. There was a complaint that this num- 
ber was unnecessarily large, and that the sittings were 
too close together, some being not above thirty miles 
apart. But this objection could not be urged against 
those appointed for Georgia and South Carolina. On 
his way to the Georgia Conference Asbury was again 
joined by Dr. Coke, who had landed, as in 1787, at 
Charleston. The two Bishops traveled together from 
March until June, visiting all the Conferences and clos- 
ing their round in New York. At this Conference a 
memorable action was taken. In the year 1788 the 
Federal Constitution had been promulgated, following 
which Gener?d Washington was elected to the Presiden- 
cy of the republic. On April 30, 1789, just one month 
before the Conference sitting in New York, the Presi- 
dent elect had taken the oath of office. Bishop Asbury, 
whose admiration for Washington was great, suggest- 
ed that the Conference present to him a congratulatory 
address. The suggestion was cordially received, and 
the two Bishops were appointed to write the address. 
This they did, and the same day it was adopted, and 
the Bishops were commissioned to deliver it in person. 
General Washington, having been acquainted of the 
action of the Conference by Rev. Thomas Morrell, the 
local pastor, who had himself been an officer in the 
Revolutionary War, prepared a written response of 
similar length, and, at a time appointed, received the 

Wrestling with Great Problems. 147 

Bishops and exchanged addresses with them. The 
function was a simple but most impressive one. 

Immediately after the close of the Conference Dr. 
Coke sailed again for Europe. It was understood that 
Mr. Wesley's great age and growing feebleness made 
it necessary for him to have his chief lieutenant con- 
stantly near him. Coke probably had other reasons 
for recrossing the Atlantic. His concerns were indeed 
so many and so world-wide, with the Wesleyan mis- 
sions and with the connections in America and Great 
Britain, that he has been not inaptly styled "the Foreign 
Minister of Methodism." 

It was during the early part of this year that Bishop 
Asbury received the famous letter from Wesley — the 
last communication he ever had from those venerable 
hands — in which the patriarch of Methodism, then in 
his eighty-sixth year, accused Asbury of seeking to 
make himself great. This letter had come of the re- 
fusal of the Conference to elect Whatcoat to the epis- 
copacy on Wesley's nomination, and of the rescinding 
Of the rule of submission to Wesley's authority. Wes- 
ley had mistakenly held Asbury responsible for these 
actions. But from the charge he has been fully exon- 
erated by his contemporaries. The fallacy of the argu- 
ments against the validity of Asbury's episcopacy which 
High-churchmen have grounded on this letter has been 
so often exposed that no attention need be given it here. 

The Conferences of the year agreed that the name 
of Mr. Wesley should again be given recognition in 
the Minutes and the Book of Discipline. This recog- 
nition was not a restoration of the rule of submission, 
but was simply an acknowledgment of Wesley as a 
bishop emeritus of the American Church. According 

148 Francis Asbury. 

to Dr. Coke, the action was intended to recognize Mr. 
Wesley "as the fountain of our episcopal office and the 
father of the whole work under the divine guidance." 
In this relation the name of Wesley continued to stand 
in the American Minutes until he was called to the fel- 
lowship of the Church triumphant. 

Although the preachers with practical unanimity, and 
with the expressed sympathy of Asbury, rejected Mr. 
Wesley's call for a General Conference in 1787, the 
need of such a Conference was great. Legislation 
could only be effected by carrying each measure pro- 
posed through a series of sittings. These sittings were 
considered to constitute one Conference. The Balti- 
more sitting was the "Upper House," so to speak, 
where legislation was completed, and which had up to 
and including the year 1787 a distinct power of con- 
firmation. As the Conference sittings multiplied that 
method of lawmaking became increasingly more diffi- 
cult, and was every year productive of new chances of 
disunion. The Baltimore Conference indeed lost its 
primacy, and legislation got into the sittings haphazard 
and came out the same way. A General Conference 
would no doubt have been called in 1787, except for 
the fear of the preachers that, in the event of the elec- 
tion of another American bishop, Mr. Wesley would 
recall Asbury to Europe. Now that this danger was 
past, through the abrogation of Mr. Wesley's patri- 
archal authority, a majority favored the early convok- 
ing of a General Conference, but strangely enough 
Asbury opposed it. 

It is useless to inquire into Asbury's reasons for this 
opposition. It may or may not have grown out of a 
feeling that, as he was not a debater, he would be at 

Wrestling zvith Great Problems. 149 

a disadvantage when great contests arose in a body 
upon which there was absolutely no constitutional 
check. It is known that he feared a general moot of 
the preachers might result in radically altering the 
established discipline, to which he was greatly attached. 
He felt the need of an easier concert, but he doubted 
the wisdom of reaching it at a bound. He had, in 
fact, another scheme for the government of the Church. 
A body called "the Council," composed of the bishops 
and the presiding elders, was to be created and empow- 
ered to take over all matters of legislation and the ad- 
ministrative affairs of the Church, under a limited veto 
left to each of the Conferences. This scheme, although 
it came ostensibly from the two Bishops, was almost 
wholly the work of Asbury. It was carried through 
the Conferences in 1789 and ratified, as the result of 
a strenuous insistency on the part of Asbury. 

The Council had its first meeting at Baltimore De- 
cember 1, 1789. The members recognized at once a 
fatal defect in its plan, which required absolute unanim- 
ity to carry a measure. Also any rule vetoed by a 
Conference suspended the rule in that district. The 
first step, therefore, taken by the Councilors was to 
propose a material alteration of the restrictions laid 
upon them by the Conferences. This made it neces- 
sary to carry the whole matter through another round 
of sittings. Being but little in favor with the preach- 
ers at first, this arbitrary action of its members pro- 
voked a criticism which prophesied for the Council a 
stormy future. It was indeed doomed to a brief and 
inglorious existence ; but we may note the stages of 
its decline in their chronological order. 

History has placed a bar sinister on the escutcheon 

150 Francis Asbitry. 

of James O'Kelley, one of the most gifted and aggres- 
sive of the early Methodist leaders. He was presiding 
elder in the Southern District of Virginia, and by vir- 
tue of his office was a member of the Council. In posi- 
tion and influence in the Church he was second only 
to Asbury. At the Council session he took umbrage 
at the rulings of the Bishop, but he probably harbored 
an older and more general resentment. In January, 
1790, he addressed Asbury a letter in which he brought 
against him heavy complaints of usurpation and tyr- 
anny. This was the opening gun of the famous O'Kel- 
ley controversy, which finally resulted in O'Kelley 's 
leaving the Church and establishing an abortive organi- 
zation known as "the Republican Methodists," or 
Church of the O'Kelleyites. 

A fair picture of what lay before the pioneer Bishop 
in 1790 may be had by mentally organizing his circuit 
from these facts : Fourteen Conferences were to be at- 
tended, and these were sprinkled over the face of a 
vast triangle, whose apex reached to the far-away wil- 
derness of Georgia, and whose base extended from 
New York City to a point in the Kentucky settlements 
not far from the present city of Lexington. The time 
of these sittings reached from February 15 to October 
4, and the distance around the mighty course was little 
short of four thousand miles. Five times during that 
long ride the Bishop crossed the Appalachian Moun- 
tains and swam the swollen rivers that poured through 
their valleys. But the joy of an apostle filled his heart 
while he carried the burden of caring for all the 
Churches. Many were the perils he met, and many the 
strange stories he heard, as he and the faithful What- 
coat, who was his traveling companion much of the 

Wrestling with Great Problems. 151 

year, pressed on in tireless enterprise. They were 
often on and near the Indian lands, and in Kentucky 
heard rumors of freshly perpetrated atrocities. The 
graves of many victims of the red man's rage were 
shown them. At one stage in their return journey they 
were escorted by a company of armed frontiersmen, 
who traveled together for mutual protection. 

The heaviest concern of Bishop Asbury this year was 
for the Council. It was corning in for criticism on ev- 
ery hand. A few of the Conferences s;ave it scant 
toleration, but for the most part it was practically rep- 
robated. At some of the sittings the weary Bishop 
did not have the heart to so much as mention it, and it 
was now plain to him that its days were numbered. 

But if his cherished dream of Church government 
was disappointed, he found compensation in reflecting 
upon the progress of the work. The continent flamed 
with revival. The interest of the former year in Vir- 
ginia had spread southward, northward, and westward. 
As the preachers came into the Conferences they 
brought the glow of it on their souls; when they de- 
parted it was with augmented zeal. This was the year 
in which the Sunday school movement was formally 
recognized by Conference action. But Wesley had 
used the Sunday school long before this in his work in 
England. Asbury was also at this time projecting pri- 
mary schools in North Carolina, Georgia, and Ken- 
tuck}/ While in Kentucky he raised a subscription of \ 
$1,500 for a school in that territory to be known as* 
Bethel. This enterprise became a source of much wor- - 
ry to him at a later day, and he named it "a miniature 
Cokesbury." Other schools, especially the one in 
North Carolina and a later enterprise in Pennsylvania, 

152 Francis Asbury. 

as also one in Virginia, called the Ebenezer Academy, 
had happier histories. It is worthy of note also that 
the school which he still later projected in South Car- 
olina survives to-day in that splendid institution known 
as Wofford College. 

The episcopal labors of the year were practically 
closed with the presidency over a second session of the 
Council, which was held December 1, and, as before, 
in Baltimore. Besides considering its own difficult sit- 
uation, the Council did little except to recommend a 
loan of five thousand dollars for Cokesbury College. It 
adjourned to meet again in December, 1792; but it 
never reassembled. The General Conference of that 
year displaced it, and inherited all its functions, and 
many more. 

Dr. Coke was scheduled to reach Charleston from 
Europe by way of the West Indies about the middle 
of February, 179 1. The first Conference of the year 
was to be held in Charleston, and the two Bishops were 
then to take the round of the connection together. For 
this reason the twelve sittings named for the year were 
to be held at points east of the mountains, and so ar- 
ranged that the last should fall at midsummer. 

Dr. Coke suffered shipwreck off Edisto Light ; but 
arrived in time to attend the Conference, bringing with 
him William Hammett, an erratic and gifted young 
Irish preacher, v/hose sermons so captivated the Metho- 
dists of Charleston that they asked, and then demanded, 
that he be given them as a pastor. This request Asbury 
flatly declined to consider. A bitter personal contro- 
versy arose over the incident. Hammett followed As- 
bury to Philadelphia, and made a determined effort to 
secure the Charleston pulpit. Failing in this, he re- 

Wrestling with Great Problems. 153 

turned to Charleston, divided the congregation, and es- 
tablished an independent Church, to which he minis- 
tered until his death a few years later. 

Dr. Coke had come to America determined, as has 
been supposed, to put an end to the Council and call 
a General Conference. The meeting between him and 
Asbury was, therefore, not so cordial as had been their 
former associations ; but Asbury showed his sincerity 
of purpose and his devotion to the Church by surren- 
dering without a contest and agreeing to a General 

The two Bishops had proceeded in their joint super- 
intendency of the Conferences through Georgia and the 
Carolinas, and were at the second, or Hanover, session 
in Virginia when the)' received the melancholy news 
of the death of Mr. Wesley. Dr. Coke hurried at once 
to Baltimore, that he might take the first ship to En- 
gland, and left Bishop Asbury to complete the visita- 
tions of the year alone. Being detained in Baltimore 
over Sabbath, Dr. Coke was asked to preach a sermon 
in memory of Mr. Wesley. In this discourse he was 
indiscreet enough to suggest that the Founder's death 
had been hastened by the action of the American Con- 
ference in rescinding the rule of submission. Although 
the unreasonableness of this supposition was apparent, 
it had the effect of further chilling the affection of the 
Americans for the great and gifted man whom they had 
received half a dozen years before as their ecclesiastical 
liberator, and whom they had gladly accepted as their 
first Bishop. 

The plan of the Conferences for the year afforded 
Asbury an opportunity to take up a long-cherished en- 
terprise — namely, a personal survey of New England 

154 Francis Asbury. 

as a field for Methodism. In the previous year Jesse 
Lee, burning with desire for the mission, had been 
made presiding elder of a prospective New England 
district, and had been given three or four helpers, two 
of them veterans. With these he had invaded the land 
of steady habits and Calvinistic theology. A beginning 
had been made, and the work was to be immediately re- 

Asbury made exceptional preparations for his New 
England journey. The country was old and the high- 
ways were good. Instead of the usual horseback ad- 
vance, he decided to go on wheels, and secured a chaise 
for his use. In company with Jesse Lee he set out 
from New York about June I. A number of the prin- 
cipal cities were visited, including Newport, Provi- 
dence, Hartford, New Haven, Boston, Lynn, and 
Salem. In all these he delivered sermons, and in a few 
instances met with cordial treatment ; but, generally 
speaking, he was accorded scant courtesy by the repre- 
sentatives of other Churches. His rather disparaging 
estimate of the type of religion he found may have been 
unconsciously influenced by something besides theolog- 
ical judgment. 

Although he saw little that was accomplished by his 
personal mission, he returned feeling that at an early 
day Methodism would come into its own, even in the 
land of "the Presbyterians," as he termed the Calvin- 
istic Congregationalists, whose altars were still sup- 
ported by appropriations from the State Legislatures. 
He believed that Arminian Methodism would find tin- 
der amongst the "decrees." The following year his 
faith was rewarded by tidings of a revival which began 
under his preachers in Connecticut. The center of this 

Wrestling zvith Great Problems. 155 

awakening was at Hartford, where that remarkable 
man, Hope Hull, was in charge. It was during this 
revival that a lad of thirteen or fourteen years "joined 
in society" under Hull, and later asked for license as a 
preacher. This lad was the famous and erratic Loren- 
zo Dow, whose sermons and meteoric dashes from the 
Canadas to Mississippi and back were one of the sen- 
sations of the early years of the nineteenth century. 

The Conferences (eighteen in number) for the 
round of 1792 began early, the first two being held' 
before Christmas, 1791. These visitations, which the 
Bishop found it necessary to complete by the end of 
September, must have represented in the aggregate 
nearly five thousand miles. In addition to taking in 
the stations in Georgia, Holston, and Kentucky, he held 
a Conference in Lynn, and thus a second time com- 
passed nearly the whole of New England. It was to 
him a year of great stress. At the height of it he made 
this entry in his journal : "How much I have suffered 
in this journey is only known to God and myself." As 
in 1790, he was while on the frontier in the midst of 
Indian hostilities, and several times barely missed being 
set upon by the savages. A whole night he paced a 
sentry's beat, watching for the redskin foe. Again, 
after a long and weary mountain ride, he was sheltered 
at a house protected by armed guards. But all condi- 
tions, as all places, were alike to him, so he turned in 
and slept, with no disturbing dreams. In his journal 
he wrote : "I do not fear. Nature is spent with labor ; 
I would not live always. Hail, happy death : nothing 
but holiness, perfect love, and then glory for me!" 
This is the generation of those who overcome by the 
word of their testimony. 

156 Francis Asbury. 

At the end of his five thousand miles of travel the 
weary itinerant dragged himself through a storm of 
rain to Baltimore. He had scarcely more than arrived 
when, as he tells us, "in came Dr. Coke, of whose ar- 
rival we had not heard, and whom we embraced with 
great love." This was the last day of October. The 
General Conference was to convene the next day in the 
Light Street Assembly Room, the meeting place of the 
early General Conferences. 

There has been a considerable difference of opinion 
as to whether or not this should be considered the first 
General Conference of the Church. Some of the early 
Church historians have so named it, but the weight of 
statement is in favor of including the Christmas Con- 
ference in the number of General Conferences and 
placing it at the head of the list. All the Conferences 
from 1773 to l 77&> inclusive, were general, but they 
were not autonomous bodies, only conversaziones con- 
ducted by Mr. Wesley's personal representatives and 
the preachers. The Christmas Conference was empow- 
ered under its Magna Charta (Mr. Wesley's letter) to 
act with no limitations except the rule of "the Scrip- 
tures and the primitive Church." The Christmas Con- 
ference was a General Conference ; but it was more. It 
was, as Dr. Abel Stevens describes it, "an extraordinary 
convention," called to create a new ecclesiastical juris- 
diction. But after separating these extraordinary pow- 
ers from the general content, there will be found re- 
maining the identical functions — legislative and juris- 
dictional — of those assemblies that were later known 
by the canonical name of "General Conference." The 
General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 
South, at the session held at Memphis. Tenn., in 1894, 

Wrestling with Great Problems. 157 

ordered that the reckoning at the head of its journal 
should include a recognition, parenthetically entered, 
of the Christmas Conference as the initial sitting in the 
series of General Conferences. The position thus taken 
is historically impregnable. 

Asbury contemplated the meeting of a General Con- 
ference with much concern, because he feared that rad- 
ical changes in the organization and Discipline of the 
Church would be attempted. Early events of the ses- 
sion showed how well his fears were grounded. 

The attendance at the Conference was large. There 
were now more than two hundred and seventy preach- 
ers in the connection ; and as all were eligible to sit, a 
vast majority of them appeared. Furthermore, it was 
expected that, in view of the rapid extension of the 
work, this would be the last assembly of this character 
that could ever be held, and this spurred many to at- 
tend from great distances. Bishop Asbury modestly 
declined to share the presidency of the session, and 
withdrew from the Conference room, asking to be "ex- 
cused from assisting to make laws by which himself 
was to be governed." He also knew that he was to 
be assailed ; so he said, "Speak your minds freely." and 
left the Conference to itself, with Dr. Coke presiding. 

Those were the times in which precedents were 
made. On the first day the Conference drafted rules 
of order. It was also then determined that only by 
a two-thirds vote could new disciplinary rules be made, 
or old ones abolished, but that any rule might be al- 
tered or amended by a simple majority- At the sug- 
gestion of Bishop Asbury, a "Preparatory Committee" 
was appointed and directed to bring forward proper 
matters for consideration in Conference. This was the 

158 Francis Asbury. 

expiring ghost of "the Council." It proved to be a 
weir of paper before a flood. Within three days after 
the Conference opened legislation was being lugged 
in by the ears, and the tribunal of proprieties promptly 

It was now that James O'Kelley came forward with 
his historic resolution directed against Asbury. The 
subject of this revolutionary document was, that if any 
preacher considered himself injured by his appoint- 
ment, he should have liberty to appeal to his Confer- 
ence; and if the Conference approved his objection, 
the Bishop should appoint him to another circuit. This 
contention was espoused by strong men, and some of 
them close friends of Bishop Asbury, as Hope Hull 
and Freeborn Garrettson. On the opposite side were 
men like Jesse Lee, Thomas Morrell, and Nelson Reed. 
For a time it seemed that the issue was certain to 
carry, but after a prolonged debate it was decisively 
defeated. As a result, O'Kelley and several other 
members of the Conference left their seats and with- 
drew from the Church. With O'Kelley went a young 
Virginia preacher whom Asbury had ordained the 
year before. He was a choice young man and a good- 
ly, and the soul of Asbury yearned after him. Before 
many weeks the disaffected disciple was won back, and 
became Asbury's traveling companion and confidant. 
That was William McKendree, whose apostolic labors 
rank only second to those of Asbury in the Church of 
the New World. 

The action of the General Conference in rejecting 
the measure proposed by O'Kelley settled the appoint- 
ing power of the episcopacy upon a basis which has 
suffered no change to the present day. Young Mc- 

Wrestling with Great Problems. 159 

Kendree, who followed for a time the schismatic 
O'Kelley, became later the champion of the episcopal 
prerogative, and was recognized as "the Constitution- 
al Expounder of Methodism." 

The Discipline came in for material changes and 
alterations. Its oft-revised categories were now mar- 
shaled into three comprehensive chapters. The first 
chapter concerned the ministry, the second the mem- 
bership, and the third included the sections on tem- 
poral economy, and the doctrinal tracts and Church 
offices, or ritual. The prophecy of the "Annual Con- 
ference'" is distinctly read in the empowerment of the 
Ihshops to "unite two or more districts together" to 
form a Conference or to participate in a sitting. The 
title "presiding elder" appears this year for the first ' 
lime in the Discipline, and the duties of that officer 
come out more clearly than before. 

After a two weeks' sitting the General Conference 
r.djourned, having settled in stronger terms the Church 
polity, and having provided for a general governing 
body to sit every four years, "to be composed of all the 
traveling preachers in full connection," as against the 
eligibility of all the traveling preachers in this and the 
Christmas Conference. 

Thus the historic session, which be^an in storm and 
confusion, ended in peace and the promise of victory. 
Problems that had vexed the Church from its founda- 
tion had been solved, and greatly needed legislation 
had been secured. Asbury saw his desires realized by 
means the employment of which he had contemplated 
with dread. After a "sifting and shaking" process, he 
found his position stronger than before. Dr. Coke 
praised in the highest terms the abilities, moderation, 

160 Francis Asbury. 

and unselfishness of the American preachers as ex- 
hibited in the debates and votes of the Conference. 

With these felicitations, "the little Doctor" took leave 
of his brethren, and again, sailed for Europe, leaving 
the oversight of the continent to his toiling colleague. 
It is doubtful if Coke ever at any time fully appraised 
the possibilities of the American work, or saw how 
great an opportunity for service he was letting slip in 
giving so little time to the bishopric to which he had 
been consecrated. Yet in the hearing of his self-given 
missionary commission he possibly found his providen- 
tial sphere. 

In the Century's Twilight. 

The Annual Conference sessions which followed the 
General Conference of 1792 began almost immediately, 
the first being scheduled for November 15, at Alexan- 
dria, Va. This was the period of experimentation with 
the yearly Conference, the evolutionary stage in which 
that body struggled to reach the type of fullness and 
permanency. Twenty sittings were indicated in the 
list for the year; but it is certain that a greater num- 
ber were held, while at least two in the list appear to 
have been omitted. The extent to which the episcopal 
visitations were multiplied and extended is suggested 
by such new and remote points for meetings as Savan- 
nah, John's River, Jonesboro, and Nashville. 

The Conference in North Carolina was again held 
at the home of the Rev. Green Hill, and the preachers 
reported a total of more than nine hundred conversions 
for the year in that territory. In South Carolina As- 
bury lodged at "Rembert Hall," the home of Col. James 
Rembert, a rich planter, and the Gaius of early Metho- 
dism in South Carolina. On many succeeding jour- 
neys this hospitable roof sheltered the tired Bishop, 
and the ministries beneath it cheered and refreshed 
him for his toils. Indeed, it was the experiences which 
fell to him in homes like those of James Rembert, 
Harry Dorsey Gough, Judge White, Governor Van 
Cortlandt, General Russell, Green Hill, the Dallams, 
and the Warfields that proved the earthly compensa- 
tion of his homeless wandering life. It was about 
11 (t6t> 

162 Francis Asbury. 

this time that he imparted this confidence to his jour- 
nal: "None need desire to be an American bishop on 
our plan for the ease, honor, or interest that attends 
the office." And yet when he compared his lot with 
others, he counted himself amongst the most blessed 
of men, and declared in borrowed, though none the less 
triumphant, words : 

"The things eternal I pursue. 

The things by nature felt and seen, 
Their honors, wealth, and pleasures mean, 
I neither have nor want." 

Although the General Conference had left him in 
a stronger official position than before, troubles con- 
tinued to multiply. The O'Kelley schism was taking 
definite shape. Systematic efforts were being made 
by the seceders to lead away large bodies of Metho- 
dists, and at one stage of the controversy the scheme 
was nearly successful. Tidings of these movements 
followed the Bishop on his distant journeys and caused 
him much concern. But he proved to be powerful in 
all parts of Methodism, whether present or absent. A 
constant correspondence issued from under his hand 
as he rode and preached and sat in Conference. With 
arguments, with tearful entreaties, with persuasiveness 
of love, he won the people back in numbers, and thus 
reduced the schism to the thin edge ; yet for all this, 
the losses of Methodism from this cause were con- 
stant for several years, and it was not until 1802 that 
the discrepancy in membership was fully covered. This 
was Asbury's deep affliction, and, saint though he was, 
he had strong words for those who troubled Israel. 
Sometimes these strong words went beyond even 

In the Century's Tzvilight. 163 

what he himself in soberer moments could adjudge 
allowable. "I have said more than was for the glory 
of God concerning those who have left the American 
connection," he penitently wrote in his journal, "and 
who have reviled Mr. Wesley, Mr. Fletcher, Dr. Coke, 
and poor me. O that I could trust the Lord more 
than I do and leave his cause wholly in his own hands !" 
At Savannah he saw the ruins of Whitefield's Orphan- 
age, which had been destroyed by fire. The charred 
and gaping walls were still standing. While yet a 
young preacher in England he had seen the copper- 
plate counterfeit of the building, famed through two 
worlds, and the melancholy spectacle upon which he 
now looked affected him deeply. Within a few years 
he was to witness a similar picture at Cokesbury. 

A significant episcopal act — the first step in the evo- 
lutional movement toward a permanent type of yearly 
Conference — belongs to the record of this year. That 
was the uniting of the works in South Carolina and 
Georgia into what was afterwards known as the South 
Carolina Conference ; but at this time there were nei- 
ther Conference names nor boundaries. Though the 
last section of the old colonial empire, except New 
England, to be invaded by the Methodists, South Caro- 
lina and Georgia were yet the first integrants of Meth- 
odism to be thrown into permanent Conference shape. 
Savannah was made a station and put in charge of 
Hope Hull, who had wrought so effectively the year 
before in New England. Thus nearly threescore years 
after John Wesley had left the capital of Oglethorpe 
between suns a Methodist was again there to combat 
the vanities and follies of this world. 

After leaving Savannah and passing up through the 

164 Francis Asbury. 

Carolinas, Asbury again accomplished his long and 
perilous journey across the mountains into the wild 
new territory of Tennessee and the distant settlements 
in Kentucky. By the end of summer he had, in re- 
turning, crept again over those stony barriers, and had 
again completed the round of New England, in which 
little-while-ago unpromising field he was comforted 
with the reports of many conversions. By the begin- 
ning of autumn he was in Philadelphia, now being 
visited by a scourge of yellow fever. Unhindered and 
unterrified, he entered the stricken city, prayed, deliv- 
ered his message, and then went his way to answer 
other calls. 

There is a limit to human endurance, and this Fran- 
cis Asbury was often forced, though reluctantly, to 
acknowledge. Diseased and broken, he was compelled 
during 1794 to give up his accustomed circuit of the 
republic. He dared not attempt in his enfeebled con- 
dition the passage of "the American Alps," as he 
termed the triple Appalachian ranges ; but contented 
himself chiefly with visitations through those States 
which had made his circuit before the meeting of the 
Christmas Conference. The preachers from distant 
fields met him at halfway points, and he there planned 
their stations and directed their future movements. 
An enforced inactivity of many weeks occurred dur- 
ing January and February, and this season was spent 
in the genial climate of Charleston. 

Practical and matter-of-fact though he was, there 
was yet in the make-up of Asbury an element of the 
dreamer and idealist. This was that in him which ran 
to the seer. Colluding with his faith, it enabled him 
to see results before they were attained ; it gave fasci- 

In the Century's Tivilight. 165 

nation to adventure, and made enticing the enterprise 
of the impossible. The distant treadings of his un- 
seen itinerants through mountains and valleys remote 
were a perpetual echo of music in his thoughts. He 
had also the rare faculty of divining the spirits, and 
knew the men whose feet would echo thus. In March, 
1794, he writes : "I have provided Brothers Gibson 
and Lurton for the westward.'' That was Tobias Gib- 
son ; and never was word of command laid upon a 
more intrepid soldier. The word "westward" had for 
him a soul-entrancing sound. In 1800, with the call 
of the new century, he rode to the settlements on the 
Cumberland, there procured a frail boat, which he 
paddled down the Cumberland, the Ohio, and thence 
into the Mississippi, in which stream he continued un- 
til he came to the Natchez country, where through suc- 
cessive years he labored and laid the foundations of 
Methodism in that then more than romantic region. 
Death early called him to his rest. His dust sleeps 
within hearing of the eternal roll of the tides of the 
river along whose banks he sowed the enduring seed. 

The Conference held this year in New England was 
a notable one. After preaching in Boston, where he 
assured himself that Methodists would "yet have a 
work," in company with Robert R. Roberts, afterwards 
one of the bishops of the Church, Asbury came to Wil- 
braham and met the preachers. Not a few of the men 
famous in the early history of Methodism were in that 
little gathering. Besides Roberts and Lee were Os- 
trander, Mudge, Taylor, and Hull. Stevens, the his- 
torian, stopped in his narrative to make special mention 
of these names of men who "led the triumphs of Israel 
in the land of the East." 

i66 Francis Asbury. 

Experience had taught Asbury and the brethren 
much wisdom in the arrangement of the Conferences. 
At first there was an unnecessary waste of time and 
a needless multiplication of meetings. But the dis- 
tricts were now so consolidated that for 1795 only 
seven sittings were appointed, as against twenty, and 
even more, in some previous years. All the frontier 
work was united in one body called the "Western 
District." This made it necessary for the Bishop to 
make but one point beyond the mountains, where all 
the preachers, gathered into a single assembly, made 
not only an effective show, but held a helpful fellow- 

This year the heart of Asbury was deeply saddened 
by news of the death of Justice White, of Delaware, 
his benefactor and protector in the times of strife and 
war. "He was a friend to the poor and oppressed; he 
had been a professed Churchman, and was united to 
the Methodist connection about seventeen or eighteen 
years," was, in part, the simple eulogy passed upon 
him by his simple-hearted friend and Bishop. It was 
about this time also that the journal of Asbury noted 
the deatli of Richard Henry Lee, a "great politician, 
who was active in promoting the independence of the 
United States." It is significant that in the same con- 
nection he sighed over the impotency of the measures, 
political and ecclesiastical, for dealing with the cause 
of slavery The men who made the republic had their 
own notions about slavery, but left the problem, with 
all its perils, to the men of an after time. 

Freeborn Garrettson, the Roland of the itinerancy, 
had married a woman of wealth, and was settled in a 
sumptuous home on the Hudson, but was still loyal to 

In the Century's Twilight. 167 

his call as a Methodist preacher, and continued so to 
the end of his life. Descending the country from his 
episcopal visitations in New England, Asbury was en- 
tertained in the Garrettson home, and also tarried a day 
with his long-time friend, Governor Van Cortlandt, 
whose manor was in the same quarter. Van Cort- 
landt was one of the truly great figures of his day. 
He had won renown in public life, but was heartily 
religious. He was a tower of strength to the Meth- 
odists. In his home Washington, Lafayette, and other 
distinguished men had been entertained, but they were 
not made more welcome than were the itinerants. 
Whitefield had several times been his guest, and from 
the balconies of his mansion had addressed a multitude 
of people. The highest compliment which Asbury 
could pay to this courtly publicist and hearty Metho- 
dist layman was that he reminded him of General Rus- 
sell, the pioneer soldier Christian, now sleeping under 
the sod of the far-away Holston Valley. 

Bishop Coke was expected in the country to preside 
over the General Conference of 1796. Asbury there- 
fore began in the autumn of the previous year his 
seventh round of the connection with the feeling that 
relief from the great burden he was carrying was soon 
to be afforded bv his colleague and his brethren. It 
seems incredible that he should have been left so long 
without episcopal assistance, but more incredible that 
at the next General Conference the episcopacy was not 
"strengthened ;" but why it was net done will be seen 
when we come to review in their place the proceedings 
of that body. 

It becomes now no longer necessary to follow the 
apostolic pioneer around his six thousand miles of 

[68 Francis Asbury. 

circuit. He had come to know the passes of the 
"American Alps" and the paths of the wilderness as 
seamen know the sea. Each year he pushed his own 
advance a little farther westward, and flung the bat- 
tle line a stage beyond his own going. Each year, too, 
a step farther northward, as a step farther southward, 
pressed the vanguards which he was all but daily re- 
cruiting, and still he declared it impossible to supply 
preachers for the work. In the South the itinerants 
were in sight of the Spanish possessions, and in the 
North they were invading the "Province of Maine" 
and pushing up the courses of the Canadian rivers. At 
the turn of the year word came from Jesse Lee that 
the bulwarks in New England were giving way, and 
that even Boston was receiving the Methodists. Asbury 
estimated that this year there were seventy thousand 
Methodists in America and the West Indies. The Min- 
utes showed a total of nearly three hundred preachers 
connected with the work. When, twenty-five years 
before, Asbury entered upon his labors in the New 
World there were with himself and Richard Wright, 
his fellow-missionary, but eight Methodist preachers 
on the continent, and scarcely five hundred members 
in society. 

A memory of his initial days of service in America 
was revived to him this year. The episcopal round 
closed with the Conference in Philadelphia, and here 
Asbury had the pleasure to receive as a visitor at the 
Conference his old-time comrade in arms, Joseph Pil- 
moor, who was now rector of a Protestant Episcopal 
parish in the "City of Brotherly Love." The ex- 
itinerant was not only cordially received, but was in- 
vited to preach, and Asbury expressed gratification at 

In the Century's Twilight. 169 

hearing "such wholesome talk" from his "plain coun- 

And now having learned through the medium of the 
newspapers that Dr. Coke had reached Baltimore, he 
rode to "Perry Hall," where he gave himself up to 
a "rest of both mind and body." Despite their some- 
time sharp differences, there subsisted between Coke 
and Asbury a deep and sincere personal affection. As- 
bury not only admired the great and commanding tal- 
ents of his colleague, but cherished a profound re- 
spect for his faithful and unselfish zeal in the cause 
of God. For his own part Coke regarded Asbury as 
being, next to Wesley, the most apostolic man he had 
ever known. It is certain that Asbury always breathed 
easier and felt a surer confidence when his colleague 
was within easy access. In an entry in his journal 
touching the General Conference which met a few 
days later he says: "Bishop Coke was cordially re- 
ceived, as my friend and colleague, to be wholly for 
America, unless a way should be opened to France." 

About one hundred preachers reported at the open- 
ing of the General Conference. The new rule cut off 
not a few, and many eligibles were too remote to un- 
dertake the long journey. But the giants were there, 
and the old battle on the episcopal prerogative had to 
be fought over. Asbury described it as "a stroke at 
the presiding eldership." There is no record of what 
this stroke was exactly ; but a later time developed it 
into a matter known and read of all men. 

The entire work was now divided, or rather consol- 
idated, into six Annual Conferences, with definite 
boundaries and distinct names. These Conferences 
were the New England, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Vir- 

170 Francis Asbury. 

ginia. South Carolina, and Western. The first, as its 
name indicated, included all New England. The Phil- 
adelphia Conference included all of New York, the 
eastern third of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, 
and the eastern shore of Maryland ; in the Baltimore 
Conference were found those parts of Pennsylvania 
and Maryland not included in the Philadelphia Confer- 
ence. The entire State of Virginia and the northern 
half of North Carolina were designated as the Vir- 
ginia Conference, while the remaining half of North 
Carolina and all of South Carolina and Georgia went 
to make up the South Carolina Conference. Kentucky 
and Tennessee were described as the Western Confer- 

And now it was that the interpretative jurisprudence 
of Methodism began. By vote of the General Confer- 
ence the Bishops were directed to prepare explanatory 
notes on the various sections, rules, and provisions of 
the Discipline. This was done, and the "Notes" were 
printed in the tenth edition, the one bearing date of 
1798, and from these "Notes" have grown the official 
"Manuals" and other expanded commentaries on Meth- 
odist law and constitution used in the various branch- 
es of the Church to-day. 

Bishop Asbury expected and desired the election by 
the General Conference of one or more "assistant bish- 
ops," but he set his ideal so high that the body hesi- 
tated to act. Not, indeed, that there were not men 
in the body who felt that a fit man could be found ; 
but the few who felt that way were unable to con- 
centrate the judgment of the majority. Asbury was 
then asked to select his own colleague or colleagues. 
This he steadily declined to do, and the problem was 

In the Century's Twilight. 171 

thereby made more difficult of handling than before. 
It was at this juncture that Dr. Coke came forward 
with a proposition that seemed to offer an instant and 
complete solution. His relations in Europe had been 
strained for some time, and he was doubtful as to 
what his future course should be. He now agreed to 
settle in America and give his whole time to assist- 
ing Bishop Asbury, except when he should be engaged 
in- looking after the missions in the West Indies or 
France. The preachers were much divided as to the 
wisdom of adopting this course; in fact, as we have 
seen, there was much opposition to Dr. Coke, and his 
apparent neglect of the Americans had not helped to 
remove this feeling. But as he was already a Bishop 
of the Church, and now agreed to serve under terms 
satisfactory to his brethren, and as Bishop Asbury 
strongly urged the adoption of that course, no bishop 
was elected, and Dr. Coke's proffered services were 
accepted. This arrangement promised much for As- 
bury's relief, but it was disappointing almost to the 
last degree. 

The two Bishops proceeded together on the round 
of the Conferences until February, 1797, when Dr. 
Coke sailed for Europe to return within a short while, 
and thereafter, as both he and the brethren expected, 
take up his permanent residence in the New World. 
Asbury was at this time suffering acutely from his old 
maladies, and during this year was in bed oftener and 
longer than during any previous period. He was con- 
fined fully six months out of the twelve, and sorrow- 
fully records that he was able to travel during the 
year not above three thousand miles. He was also 
much weighed down with general despondency. The 

1J2 Francis Asbury. 

going away of his colleague caused him deep regret. 
"To-morrow," he says, "my dear Coke sails for Eu- 
rope. Strangers to the delicacies of Christian 
friendship know little or nothing of the pain of part- 
ing." Beyond any question Dr Coke was sincere in 
his desire and purpose to return and become a settled 
bishop in America, but in Europe he found conditions 
that he had not supposed existed. He was, in fact, 
agreeably surprised to discover that his brethren in 
Ireland and England were demanding his release from 
the obligation given the Americans, that he might 
serve the home land. A year before he had believed 
his welcome in Great Britain to be gone. The happy 
discovery of this preference confused his feelings and 
left him in a strait betwixt two. 

So it was that the invalid Asbury was left to strug- 
gle on through his year of toils, with none to share the 
heavy demands of his office. On September 23 he 
made this entry in his journal : "I received a letter from 
Dr. Coke. As I thought, so it is, he is gone from Ire- 
land to England, and will have work enough when he 
cometh here. It is a doubt if the Doctor 

cometh to America until spring, if at all until the Gen- 
eral Conference. I am more than ever convinced of 
the propriety of the attempts I have made to bring for- 
ward episcopal men." 

One thing is clear from the above, and from other 
like records — namely, that Asbury did not hesitate to 
propose a particular man for the episcopacy. Whether 
or not he was wise in doing so in his time it is now 
impossible to say ; but a modern Methodist sentiment 
has ruled strongly against "nominations" for the epis- 
copal office. 

In the Century's Tzi'Mght. 173 

Giving up hope of help from his colleague, Asbury 
turned, as before, to his solitary task. He attempted 
to meet the preachers in the "Western Conference, and 
even crossed the mountains, but was forced to return, 
leaving the administration to the presiding elders. 
More than once he was forced to call an elder to hold 
the Conferences in Virginia and other States. Jesse 
Lee was his trusted substitute, and at this time he 
strongly favored Lee for the episcopacy; but when, in 
1800, Lee failed of election he and his friends were 
inclined to charge his defeat upon Asbury. The story 
is one of painful human misunderstandings. 

To Asbury's surprise, no doubt, Dr. Coke did re- 
turn to the continent in the autumn of 1797. On No- 
vember 15 he presided at the session of the Virginia 
Conference, and to that body presented an official let- 
ter from the Conference in England asking for his re- 
lease from the obligation to reside in America. This it 
was not the province of a yearly Conference to grant ; 
but the preachers gave their personal consent to an 
abrogation of the agreement. Dr. Coke remained on 
the continent until the following spring, preaching and 
doing the work of a bishop. He then sailed for Eu- 
rope, and returned not until the General Conference 
of 1800. 

The year 1798 had a cheerless opening for Asbury. 
He was still extremely feeble, and felt that his end 
was nigh. Weak in body, nervous, and unable to read 
or study, he employed himself in winding spool cotton 
and talking to the children and slaves of the home 
in which he was a guest. His mind was abroad in the 
vast new lands where the scattered Churches needed 
his fostering oversight ; but heaven had decreed to him 

174 Francis Asbury. 

months of inactivity, and these he spent in fireside 
ministry to the little ones. Sublime adaptation ! At 
times he was able to do stints of work, and such times 
he put on his journal, preparing it for publication. 
The book business of the Church had greatly pros- 
pered ; but alas ! the faithful Book Steward, John Dick- 
ins, who to Asbury was as another soul, this year fell 
a victim to the yellow fever, and was gathered to his 
rest. This and news from England of the death of his 
aged father added heaviness to the continued bodily 
afflictions from which he suffered. 

As the year advanced his strength increased, and he 
was again able to take up his visitations ; but he de- 
termined to give himself to the simple work of attend- 
ing the Conference sessions. The last Conference of 
the year was held in New England, where fifty preach- 
ers assembled, such had been the growth of the work 
in the short space of seven years. It was at this Con- 
ference that Lorenzo Dow was received on trial as a 
traveling preacher and began his extraordinary career. 
With the close of this Conference Asbury turned slow- 
ly toward the South, and entered upon a short mid- 
winter stay in Charleston, which he had come to re- 
gard with an affection and interest only second to that 
which he cherished for Baltimore. 

The episcopal work for the next year (1799) was 
curtailed somewhat. Six Conferences only weie ap- 
pointed, and these were scheduled to sit between Jan- 
uary and July. A note appearing in the Minutes of 
1798 and 1799 reads: "J esse Lee travels with Bishop 
Asbury." In previous years the Bishop had seldom 
traveled without a companion. Henry Willis had rid- 
den with him in 1785, on his first episcopal tour; Mc- 

In the Century's Tzvilight. 175 

Kendree had accompanied him in 1792 ; while in 1790 
Whatcoat had with him crossed the mountains into the 
new territory, and had shared his hardship and all but 
tragic adventures. Lee and Roberts and Hull had 
gone with him about New England, and no journey 
had ever been made to the Southwest without compan- 
ionship ; but the Conference appointment of a regular 
chaplain spoke the extreme point to which his strength 
had wasted. Lee took the burden of his work, the 
preaching, the presiding, when the Bishop was not 
equal to the demand. In a word, the plan was to ease 
him of everything except the stationing of the preach- 
ers and the ordinations. More than once Lee went 
forward and held the Conferences, Asbury having 
drafted the stations and anticipated as best he could 
from his sick room the difficulties of administration. 

A somberer touch was soon to be added to his al- 
ready depressed feelings, for in the last days of the old 
century Washington had died, and the news was slow- 
ly drifting toward him in his far southern retreat. His 
admiration for Washington had been boundless. Two 
men— one in the temporal, the other in the spiritual 
realm — had seemed to him ideal. These were Wash- 
ington and Wesley "I am disposed to lose sight of 
all but Washington, matchless man!" he wrote. This 
was the once loyal subject of King George, whose con- 
science would not permit him to take a provincial oath 
of conformity. But this also was the man whose con- 
science, whose faith were compelled to respond at last 
to the demands of right and truth. This was indeed 
the element of absolute greatness in Asbury — he sub- 
mitted to be led, to follow truth whether manifested in 
subjective convictions or in arguments read from the 

176 Francis Asbury. 

force and facts of life about him. He was seer and 
hero in one. 

And now it was that a thought which had shaped 
itself in his mind a year before deepened into a pur- 
pose. This was that at the coming session of the Gen- 
eral Conference he would surrender the episcopal office 
into the hands of younger and stronger men. He had 
even selected, and set his heart upon, the two men who 
were to take up his work. And thus it was that he 
saw the century of Wesley and Washington fade out. 


Answering the New Age. 

From the New Year's session of the Conference at 
Charleston to the new century session of the General 
Conference was but a step. After the Charleston sit- 
ting had concluded its labors, Asbury dispatched his 
chaplain, Jesse Lee, on a visit to a number of the 
more western outposts to see that the itinerants were 
in their places, while he continued his rest in Charles- 
ton, if such a laborious lay-off as he was there taking 
could be called rest. Lee having returned from his 
mission early in February, the two set out on their 
return northward, with Baltimore as a destination. 

The General Conference opened in Baltimore and 
in the canonical first week in May. Bishop Asbury 
describes this Conference as one that indulged in much 
"talk" and yet did "little work." There was little 
that needed to be done, and surely it was a great com- 
fort to him that the body kept its hands practically off 
the Discipline. The Church is perhaps happiest when 
the general body finds least to do. Certainly it is a 
salutary rule to avoid unnecessary legislation. 

But several important matters engaged the atten- 
tion of the Conference. Two full days were given to 
a consideration of the double relations of Dr. Coke to 
Methodism. It will be remembered that a letter from 
the English Conference had been brought by him to 
the brethren in America in 1797, requesting that he 
be released from his promise to reside amongst them, 
since there was the most urgent need of his services 
12 (177) 

178 Francis Asbury. 

in both England and Ireland. This letter had at first 
been read to the Virginia Conference ; and while that 
body had no power to act upon it, consent was given 
so far as its rights were involved, and the whole mat- 
ter was left to the General Conference. Asbury bad 
written an official letter to the English brethren ex- 
plaining the situation, and so the request was now to 
be acted upon. The Conference, not without reluc- 
tance and regret (for Coke had come to be better un- 
derstood and more highly esteemed), consented "to 
lend him for a time" to the English brethren, with the 
understanding that he was to return and take up his 
residence in America so soon as his business would 
allow. It was also expressly stipulated that he should 
return for the General Conference of 1804. 

The next action of the Conference was to solicit 
from Bishop Asbury an expression of his wishes as to 
the General Superintendency. For some time previous 
to the meeting of the body the Bishop had seriously 
considered if he should not offer his resignation. This 
information he gave out freely to the preachers. He 
even went to the extent of writing his resignation, 
with a view to submitting it at the first session of the 
General Conference; but it seems that the opposition 
to that course was so great that he reconsidered it. 
He then submitted to know if the Conference would 
be satisfied with such partial service as his shattered 
and enfeebled health would permit him to give. In 
answer to this inquiry, the Conference by unanimous 
vote expressed its gratitude and great obligations to 
him for the many and great services he had rendered 
the connection, and entreated him to continue in the 
General Superintendency as far as his strength would 

Answering the New Age. 179 

permit. Both Asbury and the Conference regarded 
this action as a practical superannuation. The man 
whom the brethren saw before them, though but five 
and fifty years of age, was broken, emaciated, and 
apparently near the grave. But the bow of the mighty 
man was only temporarily unstrung. He had yet be- 
fore him more than fifteen years of apostolic labors. 
He was yet to catch the step of the new age and lead 
the hosts to victories now barely dreamed of or wholly 

The mind of Bishop Asbury being thus ascertained, 
the Conference by a decisive majority voted to elect 
one additional bishop. This being settled, the question 
came up as to what should be his relation to the two 
original bishops. Should he be an assistant of Asbury, 
or should he be his equal? This afforded an oppor- 
tunity for a renewal of the old fight to restrict the ap- 
pointing power of the bishops; but after many amend- 
ments were offered and defeated, it was voted that the 
bishop to be elected should have equal authority with 

Following this action the Conference proceeded to 
the election, as ordered. The expectation of Asbury was 
that Jesse Lee would be selected by an almost unan- 
imous vote, and that appeared to be the most general 
forecast ; but when the vote was counted a tie was 
announced, Jesse Lee and Richard Whatcoat receiving 
each fifty-seven votes. A second ballot was thereupon 
ordered, and the result was the election of Richard 
Whatcoat by a majority of four votes. The selection 
of Whatcoat has generally been regarded as a mis- 
take, and plainly, the circumstances being considered, 
it is hard to be accounted for. He was ten years older 

l8o Francis Asbury. 

than Asbury, nearly as feeble, of an ascetic tempera- 
ment, and proverbially impractical. He was, however, 
a blameless, holy man, and an enticing and effective 
preacher. But instead of being wings or even crutches 
to Asbury, he was, in the blunt language of one of 
Asbury's biographers, "a burden." As a sort of offi- 
cial chaplain to his colleague, he visited the yearly Con- 
ferences, presiding and preaching as there was neces- 
sity ; while Asbury planned the stations and adminis- 
tered affairs in general. After only six years of serv- 
ice the gentle-spirited man was called into rest. 

Reference has already been made to the fact that 
Lee and his friends held Bishop Asbury responsible 
for his defeat. It has generally been reported that 
when the tie vote was announced Asbury was desired 
to say which of the two he preferred, and this he prop- 
erly declined to do. It is probably upon no more se- 
rious ground than this that Asbury was credited with 
the election of the one and the defeat of the other. I 
have in my possession while these pages are being 
written an autograph letter from Lee to Asbury in 
which their differences are discussed. It is a very 
humanlike epistle, such as good men have been too 
often betrayed into writing. It has passed through 
the hands of at least two great historians of Metho- 
dism, who after nearly a hundred years treated it as 
private; I shall not presume to do otherwise. 

It is worthy of note that at this General Conference 
the salary of the preachers was raised from sixty-four 
to eighty dollars per annum — that was some recogni- 
tion, in a financial way, of the dawn of the nineteenth 
century. Bishop Asbury is to be credited with a meas- 
ure adopted at this session requiring the yearly Con- 

Answering the New Age. 181 

ference to keep permanent journals of their proceed- 
ings and send them to the General Conference for in- 
spection. By this means the connectional administra- 
tion of Methodism has been assured, and a world of 
historic material created and preserved. 

Asbury at last had a colleague upon whose presence 
he could count. They were already bosom friends and 
intimate traveling companions ; so there was no time 
required to get acquainted and agree upon an itinerary. 
Three of the scheduled Conferences for the year re- 
mained to be held. The first of these was in Delaware, 
and thither the two Bishops, accompanied by Jesse Lee 
and others, repaired. The Conference was a Pentecost. 
Bishop Asbury estimates that one hundred conversions 
occurred during the sitting. This was only a repeti- 
tion of what had happened at the General Conference 
a fortnight before. In fact, the revival which had 
swept Virginia, Maryland, and the other Southern 
Conferences had leaped across the Chesapeake and 
caught in Delaware and the Jerseys, and was moving 
northward every day. When the two Bishops came 
to hold the Conference in New York late in June, the 
spirit of awakening was found to be equally manifest 
in that quarter. Bishop Asbury wrote : "We have had 
a mighty stir in the Bowery Church for two nights 
past until after midnight; perhaps twenty souls have 
found the Lord." 

With the customary end-of-summer, or autumn, 
round through New England and down the "pleasant 
banks of the Hudson" Asbury was back in Maryland 
and at "Perry Hall." But he met a sad situation in 
that once homelike place. "The walls, the rooms no 
longer vocal," he wrote ; "all appear to be hung in 

1 82 Francis Asbury. 

sackcloth. I see not the pleasant countenances nor 
hear the cheerful voices of Mr. and Mrs. Gough. She 
is in ill health, and writes : 'I have left home perhaps 
never to return.' " With a heavy heart he turned from 
the portals of his former happy retreat, and looked far 
away toward the wilderness and the mountains where 
he was soon to be. 

And now all but a miracle had happened : the afflict- 
ed, broken man who stood before the late General Con- 
ference ready to resign his office was restored to 
health, or rather to what passed with his thankful 
heart for that blessing. In company with his colleague 
and William McKendree, who had been for several 
years presiding elder on the Western Virginia District, 
he set his face toward the most western stations of the 
Church in Kentucky and Tennessee. As they went out 
they heard the very winds that outdrove them ringing 
with hosannas, for the revival had gathered volume 
every day since the General Conference, and one thou- 
sand conversions had been reported in the Virginia and 
Baltimore Conferences. They were to hear in the far 
wilderness a like sound, for the fire had been borne 
thither in zealous hearts and was burning fervently. 
In fact, the great mid-continent revival which marked 
the opening of the nineteenth century had already 

McKendree was in the vigor and promise of his 
wonderful manhood, and was going out himself to take 
charge of a vast diocese in the West. As presiding 
elder of the "Kentucky District" he was to have over- 
sight of the Methodist stations in the States of Ohio, 
Kentucky, and Tennessee. Later, his authority was 
to extend from the Scioto in Ohio to the Natchez set- 

Answering the New Age. 183 

lements on the lower Mississippi. Six years and more 
le wrought in and watched over this imperial heritage, 
it the end of which time the Church, as by inspiration, 
:alled him to the office and work of a bishop. 

Over an accustomed route the Bishops and their 
companion entered Kentucky ; but from Bethel, where 
he Conference was held and where Bishop Asbury 
vrestled again with his "miniature Cokesbury" prob- 
em, they pushed on westward and southward several 
stages beyond the farthest point previously reached 
>y Asbury. They were now in Middle Tennessee, and 
heir destination was Nashville, the thriving young 
:ity on the Cumberland. In his journal Asbury says : 
'I rode to Nashville, long heard of but not seen by me 
mtil now." The first church of the Methodists in 
hat capital was built of stone. It was at this time in 
in unfinished condition ; but Asbury opined that when 
completed it would be "a grand house." It was, how- 
ever, used on th^ occasion of the visit of the three 
mgust men, each delivering a discourse within its 
vails, McKendree having the honor of speaking first. 
The church, which was afterwards named in his hon- 
)r, has had several successors, but has maintained a 
dtal witness until this day. 

The old-time camp meeting, which exercised so great 
in influence on Methodist evangelism for three-quar- 
ers of a century, originated amongst the Presbyterians 
md Methodists in the Cumberland Valley about the 
)eginning of the nineteenth century. It was during 
his journey that Asbury had his first experience with 
his Christian Feast of Tabernacles. The camp was 
lear Nashville at a place called Dickinson's. The 
3ishop draws a vivid picture of it: "The stand was 

184 Francis Asbury. 

in the open air, embosomed in a wood of lofty beech 
trees. . Fires blazing here and there dispelled 

the darkness, and the shouts of the redeemed captives 
and the cries of precious souls struggling into life 
broke the silence of midnight." They heard in the 
West the echo of the Spirit's work in the East, and, 
so assured, turned their faces thankfully toward the 
sunrise. Passing out of Tennessee, the two Bishops 
entered North Carolina, and, thridding the scenic 
course of the French Broad River, they crossed the 
mountains and came again into the salty airs of the 
Atlantic seaboard. 

The second year of the century was distinguished 
by the recovery of the membership lost to the connec- 
tion by the O'Kelley schism. This year the numbers 
in society reached approximately the figures reported 
in 1791, the year before O'Kelley's departure; but the 
autumn of 1801 and the spring of the succeeding year 
totaled a net addition to Methodism of nearly fourteen 
thousand members, so mighty and so general had the 
revival been. 

This year also brought Asbury a new and effective 
champion in the controversy with O'Kelley. This 
astute polemic was Nicholas Snethen, a young and 
eloquent itinerant whom Asbury chose to be his trav- 
eling companion during much of the Conference year. 
Snethen's answer to O'Kelley proved "an end of con- 
troversy," and the O'Kelley ghost was permanently 
laid. Snethen afterwards achieved much distinction, 
and was elected chaplain to Congress; but the record 
had an anomalous end: he at last rejected the idea of 
the episcopacy which he had defended, and became one 
of the founders of the Methodist Protestant Church. 

Answering the New Age. 185 

Nevertheless, this honest departure has never discount- 
ed him in Episcopal Methodist annals. His name is 
a heritage of the whole Wesleyan house. 

It was accounted by Asbury a providence that the 
sitting of the Virginia Conference brought him into 
that State about the time of the death of his much 
revered friend, the Rev. Devereux Jarratt. Although 
Jarratt had not maintained his former close and cor- 
dial relations with the Methodists after the organiza- 
tion of the societies into a Church, his relations with 
Asbury had never been disturbed. His evangelical 
spirit had left him in constant isolation from his High- 
church brethren, and the memories of the old Virginia 
days of the first revival had been mutually sweet to 
him and Brother Asbury. The Methodist Bishop 
preached the funeral of the dead churchman, and left 
in his journal a tender and grateful tribute to his 

In October the episcopal party was in South Caro- 
lina. The disturbance of the public mind in that State 
over the very stringent rule and recommendations on 
slavery voted by the General Conference of 1800 was 
great, and Asbury was much perplexed. He himself, 
while most pronouncedly antislavery, saw the necessi- 
ty for handling the matter delicately and discreetly, 
and for the most part his example was followed by 
the preachers. He came at last to doubt if the legis- 
lation of the Church on the subject had been wise, and 
wished for some wholesome and dependable rule. He 
did not live to see enacted the very wise legislation of 
1816, under which the Church lived in undivided pros- 
perity until 1844. 

But the observant Bishop found in South Carolina 

i86 Francis Asbur 


at this time a matter more in the way of religion than 
any controversy on either economics or ethics. Eli 
Whitney's cotton gin was making cotton the most mar- 
ketable and the most profitable article produced in all 
America. This meant not only the perpetuity of slav- 
ery for an age, but it meant the rapid accumulation 
of wealth and the consequent neglect of religion by 
those engaged in the great and multiplying enterprises 
thus begotten. In reviewing the outlook the unworldly 
Bishop remarked: "I cannot record great things upon 
religion in his quarter, but cotton sells high." The his- 
tory of the fleecy staple has been a tragedy as well as 
a triumph. 

The names of the Annual Conferences appear for 
the first time in the Minutes of 1802. The districts had 
been entered under appropriate names in the records 
of the previous year. Thus was perfected the method 
of designating the larger and smaller divisions of the 
connection which obtains in all the branches of Ameri- 
can Methodism to-day. There were seven Confer- 
ences in all, and the two Bishops attended these to- 
gether, beginning with the Kentucky and ending with 
the New England. 

The deepest sorrow of Asbury's life was visited 
upon him while he was presiding at the Baltimore Con- 
ference. The first winds of April — the breath of 
spring that woke the peach and apple buds along the 
highlands of the Chesapeake — brought from England 
a ship with tidings of the death of his mother. After 
thirty-one years of absence from that "very dear 
mother," his love for her was as tender and as loyal 
as when a lad he sat at her knee in their humble 
Handsworth cottage. A tear-stained page in his home- 

Auszvering the New Age. 187 

ly diary is devoted to her blessed memory. Regularly 
his itinerant salary was divided with her, and it was 
this devotion that explained in part the fact that he had 
himself not dreamed of. .wife and home. 

Later in the year news came to him that his long- 
time antagonist, O'Kelley, was ill. Asbury promptly 
dispatched two of his preachers as messengers to the 
sick man's chamber. The result was that O'Kelley 
expressed a desire for a visit from his former asso- 
ciate. Asbury promptly responded to the request, and 
the two so long estranged met in peace and commun- 
ion. No reference was made to the sundering issues 
that had long lain between them ; but they prayed and 
parted in love, perhaps, as each one thought, to meet 
no more on earth, and so it proved. In the original 
papers of Bishop McKendree I find an autograph letter 
of a member of the General Conference of 1816 who 
had had an interview with O'Kelley, and in this letter 
expressed the belief that O'Kelley and his preachers 
were ripe for a compact of reconciliation ; but if any 
attempt to accommodate was ever made, it failed. 

Bishop Whatcoat's health had now begun to serious- 
ly fail, and for part of the next year he was left out 
of the episcopal itinerary, Bishop Asbury being accom- 
panied into the West at first by Wilson Lee and then 
by Henry Boehm, a son of Martin Boehm, a coadjutor 
of Otterbein in the conduct of the German Connection. 

At the midyear Conferences Asbury discovered a 
distressing condition of Church finances. The Balti- 
more Conference, indeed, was the only one on the 
continent that appeared to be solvent. At this distance, 
that which was made a virtue of by the early Metho- 
dists — namely, the cheapness of the cost at which they 

1 88 Francis Asbury. 

maintained a ministry — is seen to be the weak point of 
their system. In the midst of ever-multiplying plenty 
the liberality and large-spiritedness of the Church were 
repressed by a mistaken standard of asceticism set for 
the ministry. It retarded the institutional growth of 
the connection, and made the incipient causes of mis- 
sions, education, and Church extension unnecessarily 
difficult. It also restricted whatever growth was real- 
ized in these directions to an ideal both imperfect and 
disparaging. It was one of the struggles of Metho- 
dism to break over these precedents and clothe itself 
with the progressive spirit of the new age. An early 
symptom of this rennaissance was the gift about this 
time of three hundred pounds by Miss De Peyster "for 
the bishops and clergy of the Methodist Church." A 
similar gift had been noted by Asbury some years 

The New England Conference for 1803 was held 
in Boston. A Methodist chapel had been completed 
and furnished, and the Conference sat within sight 
of the dome of the proud new Statehouse which As- 
bury pronounced "one of the most simply elegant 
buildings in the United States." This session of the 
Conference in the land of the Puritans was distin- 
guished by the ordination to the eldership of Joshua 
Soule, a man of whom Methodism was destined to 
hear, and to the power of whose personality it was to 
respond in history-making and history-marking crises. 

The New York Conference met at historic and pic- 
turesque Ashgrove, on the upper Hudson. To Ash- 
grove Philip Embury, the Haecks, and other loyal 
Methodists of New York had emigrated at the break- 
ing out of the Revolutionary War, this territory being 

Answering the Neiu Age. 189 

then within the British lines. Here Embury had gath- 
ered a society, and here, dying as the result of an acci- 
dent, he was buried, and here his grave may still be 
seen. The place is now within the limits of the city 
of Albany ; but the name has been given to the Church 
whose history preserves the traditions of the "Pala- 

As Asbury turned from the Conferences in the 
East to take up his journey to the frontier West, he 
rejoiced in spirit over the ingatherings of the year. It 
shows how careful and exact he was in all things that 
he should in his offhand "computations" have missed 
the official figures afterwards compiled by only a tri- 
fling difference. "By a fair and accurate computation," 
he wrote, "I judge that we have added, exclusive of 
the dead, the removed, and the expelled and with- 
drawn, 13,300. Our total for the year 1803 is 104,070 
members. In 1771 there were about 300 Methodists 
in New York, 250 in Philadelphia, and a few in Jersey. 
I then longed for 100,000; now I want 200,000 — nay, 
thousands upon thousands." 

The Cumberland camp meeting idea so impressed 
Asbury that his advocacy of it brought the preachers 
in the eastward pioneer territory to adopt it. A great 
camp was projected on the Monongahela for August, 
and to this camp Bishop Asbury and his companion 
rode on their way into Ohio and the Kentucky and 
Tennessee Districts of the Western Conference. A 
multitude of four thousand people attended the min- 
istrations of the Sabbath in the wilderness tabernacle. 
The scene was midway between the pentecostal centers 
of the East and the West. 

In crossing the Ohio River into the great new State 

190 Francis Asbury. 

of that name the Bishop and his party had a sight of 
the flotilla of Colonel Meriwether Lewis, recently com- 
missioned by President Jefferson to explore the vast 
Northwestern regions watered by the Missouri and 
Columbia Rivers. In the earlier months of the year 
the "Louisiana Purchase" had been completed with the 
ministers of Napoleon, and the enterprising President 
was making haste to fix and claim, against the encroach- 
ments of Great Britain, the far Northwestern bounda- 
ries. Thus silently and without exchange of saluta- 
tions at the fords of the shrunken river passed the 
chiefs bent on empire, the one to extend the dominion 
of the spiritual and the other the dominion of the 

In Ohio the Bishop enjoyed the hospitality and fel- 
lowship of Governor Tiffin, the first executive of the 
State, and "a distinguished figure in the history of early 
Methodism west of the Alleghanies." In Kentucky 
he was the guest of a scarcely less distinguished man 
and Methodist. This was Dr. Hinde, who had been a 
surgeon under General Wolfe, the hero of Quebec. 
Before his contact with the Methodists he was an infi- 
del. His wife being converted under the preaching 
of the itinerants, he blistered her head "to cure her of 
her madness." "But, blessed be heaven," he used to 
say, "that blister cured me of my madness." He 
heard the Methodists, was converted, and became a 
saint. Perhaps his greatest distinction is that he was 
the maternal grandfather of Bishop Hubbard Hinde 
Kavanaugh, one of the Boanerges of Southern Meth- 

New Year's Day, 1804, found Bishop Coke again 
in his sometime see in America. The first yearly Con- 

Answering the New Age. 191 

ference was held at Augusta, Ga., with Coke presid- 
ing. Asbury made the appointments, amongst them 
one for Bishop Coke to preach all the way from South 
Carolina to Boston before the meeting: of the General 
Conference. "I mark this year," he wrote, "as the 
greatest that lias ever yet been known in this land for 
religion." In passing through Charleston he preached 
in "the great house" which Hammett had built and 
which had lately come into the hands of the regular 

We have already referred to one of Asbury's reasons 
for choosing a celibate life. In his journal of this 
year he sets down seventeen others, each one of which 
might be considered by a woman as sufficient. To his 
plea in extenuation he adds this observation: "If I 
have done wrong, I hope God and the sex will forgive 
me. It is my duty now to bestow the pittance I have 
to give upon the widows and fatherless girls and poor 
married men." There is a delicious touch of humor 
in that last clause. In this connection the note is sug- 
gestive that he proceeded immediately to Norfolk and 
organized a woman's society, on which act he com- 
ments as follows : "At a meeting of the women we 
laid the foundations of a female charitable society sim- 
ilar in plan to those in New York and Baltimore, but 
more liberal. May this live, grow, and flourish when 
I am cold and forgotten !" Are not the strongly organ- 
ized and splendidly efficient women's missionary, par- 
sonage, and aid societies in modern Methodism an an- 
swer to this apostolic prayer ? 

As the General Conference approached, Asbury had 
his usual introspections, and rigidly reviewed his own 
motives. In his journal he wrote: "I lived long before 

ig2 Francis Asbury. 

I took upon me the superintendency of the Methodist 
Church in America, and now I bear it as a heavy load. 
I hardly bear it, and yet dare not cast it down, for fear 
God and my brethren should cast me down for such 
abandonment of duty."' 

The General Conference met on May 7, 1804, and, 
as always before, in Baltimore. Only one hundred 
and seven voting members were present. There was 
no absorbing issue before the Church. Bishop Coke 
as Senior Bishop presided, and from the chair read 
the Discipline section by section, and the Conference 
reviewed each point and considered if revisal or im- 
provement should be attempted. The Book Concern, 
which since the death of John Dickins had been under 
the care of Ezekiel Cooper, was ordered to be removed 
from Philadelphia to New York. The Twenty-Third 
Article of the Confession was changed so as to recog- 
nize the nationality of the United States. A time limit 
of two years was imposed upon the pastorate. This 
was done on a motion that had been preceded by no 
particular agitation or demand, and which apparently 
provoked but little discussion on the Conference floor, 
so inconsequential was the origin of a rule which, with 
slight modification, held through nearly a hundred 
years in the largest body of Methodism in America, 
and still holds in that body which is second in impor- 
tance on the continent. 

Asbury made several motions, it being then admissi- 
ble for a Bishop to take the floor, the most important 
of which was that an assistant book steward and editor 
be elected, which vote was put and carried. The ques- 
tion of slavery was, as usual, taken up, and a motion 
prevailed that the bishops bo authorized to write a 

Answering the New Age. 193 

chapter which should carry a section acceptable to the 
North and another acceptable to the South. Asbury 
declined to undertake such a task. The result was that 
the former rule was much modified, and the Confer- 
ences in the South were exempted from its operations. 
After agreeing to a continuance of the arrangement for 
Dr. Coke to retain his residence in Europe, laying 
again the ghost of the anti-presiding eldership agita- 
tion and disposing of sundry impracticable motions 
and schemes, the General Conference adjourned. 

Coke, Asbury, and Whatcoat were never to meet 
again in General Conference. This was Coke's last 
visit to the Church in America. Bishop Whatcoat died 
in 1806, and so from that date Bishop Asbury was 
again alone in the episcopacy until the election, in 1808, 
of his masterful and apostolic associate, William Mc- 

Abetting the Makers of the Constitution. 

With the beginning of the second quadrennium of 
the new century Methodism had entered upon the era 
of the making and settling of a permanent constitution 
for its government. Although Bishop Asbury was not 
the originator of the idea of a delegated General Con- 
ference, or of the constitution under which it was to 
enact laws and administer power in the Church, he- 
was in keenest sympathy with the leaders and the ideals 
they represented. He was also in a position to abet 
their plans and secure their success in the end. This 
it is the purpose of the present section of our study 
to show, as the narrative proceeds in orderly detail. 

Four yearly Conferences remained to be held after 
the General Conference of 1804. Three of these — the 
Philadelphia, the New York, and the New England — 
the bishops attended together. From the North they 
descended by the accustomed route of the Hudson 
Valley and the Highlands, and finally drew rein at 
Baltimore, whence they had originally set out, having 
been somewhat more than two months on the round. 
Whatcoat was in failing health, while Asbury, having 
suffered a return of former symptoms and having pro- 
cured to have himself blistered on the neck and foot, 
cupped and bled, and drenched with heroic emetics, 
was — though, strange to say, alive — in a mood to make 
his will and again meditate resignation from office. 
The empiricism to which he submitted is at this day 

Abetting the Makers of the Constitution. 195 

It is to be noted that this year the connection suf- 
fered a loss of forty-eight itinerant preachers by reason 
of their taking the local relation. This was largely 
due to the parsimonious allowances made for the regu- 
lar pastors. Several of these retiring brethren went 
promptly into pulpits of the Protestant Episcopal 
Church, where better salaries invited them, and where 
as men of action they were both wanted and welcomed. 
Thus early did Methodism begin to supply its younger 
Anglican sister with ministers, a service which she has 
continued to render to this day. In this irregular way 
the evangelical spirit has been much aided in that com- 
munion. It is to the credit of Bishop Asbury that he 
treated these departing brethren with much courtesy. 
and even hospitably sped their going. Of one promi- 
nent case he wrote: "I am willing that he should be- 
long to the (Episcopal) Church people. I believe that 
they have more need of him than the Methodists have."' 
And this in no sinister spirit. 

In August the journey into the Western Conference 
was begun. On the way westward Asbury stopped to 
visit with his friends, the Goughs, who were sojourn- 
ing at the Warm Springs. Both the master of "Perry 
Hall" and his wife were invalids, and it was only a few 
years after this that the master of the Hall passed 
away, with his faithful friend and Bishop at his bed- 
side. Asbury knew no more devoted friendship than 
that with Harry Dorsey Gough. 

The two Bishops had proceeded on their western 
tour as far as the Ohio region of Western Virginia, 
when Bishop Asbury was prostrated, and further ad- 
vance became impossible. Whatcoat offered to con- 
tinue the journey alone ; but that was both impractica- 

196 Francis Asbury. 

ble and undesirable. On a general proposition, his 
health was more precarious than that of Asbury's, and 
Asbury saw that it would be better to leave the hold- 
ing of the Conference to the "President Elder," Wil- 
liam McKendree, whom he already foreknew as a col- 

There was now nothing left the two invalid Bish- 
ops but to drift slowly through the eleven weeks of 
autumn toward their winter asylum at Charleston, at 
which point the first Conference for 1805 was to be 
held. A stop was made at "Rembert Hall," where 
Asbury tarried a time and meditated upon the death 
of three of the most efficient preachers of the connec- 
tion — Wilson Lee, Nicholas Watters, and Tobias Gib- 
son — and where Conference memoirs of the two latter 
were prepared. 

Francis Asbury was now the best-known as well as 
the best-beloved man in all America. In every city in 
the republic from Savannah to Boston he counted his 
personal friends by the scores and hundreds. In every 
village, on every farm and plantation lying near the 
great highways, in the remotest western settlements, 
his name was familiar to merchant and laborer, to 
master and slave, to woodman and squatter The 
newspapers heralded his comings and goings, and peo- 
ple of every rank and station attended upon his min- 

I have nowhere in the course of this narrative at- 
tempted to describe Bishop Asbury's preaching or to 
appraise his pulpit powers. That could not well be 
done. His sermons answered to no criteria and his 
powers were entirely too unique to be described inl 
terms of ordinary criticism. He was not a great 

Abetting the Makers of the Constitution. 197 

preacher. He had neither the attainments nor the gifts 
to make a great preacher ; and yet there must have been 
an indescribable skill displayed in his manner of han- 
dling a subject. He was simple, direct, evangelical. 
Above everything, he was in earnest. His voice was 
musical, his appearance reverend and commanding. 
It was impossible to separate the sermon from the 
man. His life coalesced with his gospel, and therein 
was his power. That it was that made him so mighty 
amongst men. 

It was now near the end of Thomas Jefferson's first 
term in the Presidency, and the political parties had 
pretty well defined their issues. Asbury discovered 
that the Methodists were not disposed to hold together 
on political matters, but showed an independency of 
thought and action which he greatly commended. "Our 
people think for themselves," he observed ; "and are as 
apt to differ in politics (so do the preachers) and di- 
vide at the hustings as those of any other denomina- 
tion; and surely they are not seekers of the offices of 
this world's profit or honor. If they were, what might 
they not gain in many parts of the United States !'* 
Even then they held a balance of power by reason of 
their preponderance as a religious body. But what 
Asbury here observed is still true — namely, that Meth- 
odism is so thoroughly a religion of spiritual motives 
and ideals that it can never be enslaved by a partisan 
political mastery. There is in it too much of the in- 
tellectual and ethereal to admit of its being employed 
for any human aggrandizement. 

The health of both Asbury and Whatcoat was im- 
proved by their brief winter rest, and they set off 
from Charleston to visit the series of Conferences 

198 Francis Asbury. 

appointed for 1805. At Fayetteville, N. C, an early 
capital of the State, the Methodists had no house of 
worship except a plain structure which had been built 
by Henry Evans, a most remarkable negro local 
preacher. It was known as the African Church. When 
Asbury reached this place in his northward journey, 
he was offered the Statehouse for his service, but he 
declined. Then the Presbyterian pastor tendered him 
his church, which was a large and pretentious build- 
ing, but this he also courteously declined, and went 
with his congregation to the meaner structure used 
by his own people, saying: "Home is home; ours is 
plain, to be sure ; but it is our duty to condescend to 
men of low estate." Asbury was a Methodist Bishop. 
If there were those who questioned his ecclesiastical 
right to bear the title of bishop, there was none who 
doubted his right to wear the name which qualified his 

Through episcopal indorsement and recommenda- 
tions the camp meeting was coming into vogue in the 
Atlantic Conferences, and Asbury 's journal gives ac- 
count of a whole series of these extraordinary gather- 
ings, attended often by from six to eight thousand peo- 
ple, and at which literally thousands in the aggregate 
were converted. The battle for spiritual dominion was 
being waged on every side. In some Conferences the 
supply of ministers was sadly inadequate; in others a 
number could be spared, and so the transfer system 
was early developed. It was the period of evangelism 
extraordinary. Of pastoral work in the proper sense 
there was — there could be — little, except what was 
done through the class leaders who were in that and 
the earlier day really an orler of subpastors. The 

Abetting the Makers of the Constitution. 199 

preacher himself was never in one stay. The more 
ground he covered and the more sermons he preached, 
the better he met the ideal and the need of his office. 
Pastoral work under these conditions was all but im- 
possible. Asbury estimated for this period twenty 
thousand additions to the membership of the Church 
and twenty thousand deficit on quarterage. He thank- 
fully concluded that it was better to have grace than 
gold, and went on struggling with the deficits. The 
age of pastoral teaching and training, as also of sys- 
tematic giving, was yet to come. The evangelism of 
the time was intensive to an extraordinary degree, but 
the mastery of congregations awaited the completion 
of the campaign of conquest. 

In July Asbury received a letter from Dr. Coke an- 
nouncing his marriage. With this announcement came 
the intimation that he would like to settle permanently 
in the superintendency in America, provided the requi- 
site number of Conferences would recall him. The 
experienced Asbury saw how impossible such a prop- 
osition was, and counted Coke as lost to the work on 
this side the Atlantic. A benedict Methodist Bishop 
was as useless in America at that day as a king. The 
Annual Conferences declined to recall him. Later he 
resubmitted his proposition looking to an equal division 
of the connection between himself and Asbury ; but 
the General Conference followed a wiser and more 
Methodistic plan in providing for the superintendency 
of the Church. 

The two American Bishops felt equal this year to 
the task of riding again the mighty circuit of the West ; 
and this they did, passing, as in 1S03, through Ohio 
and then down into Kentucky and Tennessee, across 

200 Francis Asbury. 

the vast diocese, quaking with revival, over which 
McKendree was still presiding. Asbury had made a 
simple, but to him and the Church a most important, 
discovery. It was now possible, if only barely so, to 
cross the mountains and traverse even the great west- 
ern reserves in a wheeled vehicle, since a semblance 
of highways was appearing. He accordingly before 
leaving the East provided himself with a stout light 
road carriage, which he describes as a "Jersey wagon." 
Thus equipped he was able to travel and make long 
journeys, which had become impossible to him on 
horseback. For the remaining ten years of his life 
he seldom traveled otherwise than in a sulky or light 
barouche, which became as much identified with his 
apostolate as had his faithful gray before. 

At the turn of the year he complained of failing 
eyesight, and admonished himself thus: "I must keep 
my eyes for the Bible and the Conferences." Within 
a week, or ten days at most, this entry follows: "From 
Monday to Saturday, among other occupations, I have 
been employed in reading a thousand pages of Mr. 
Atmore's Memorial and Mr. Wesley's Journal." It 
was in this way that he spared his eyes, as it was in 
this way that he spared his whole body. 

Bishop Whatcoat started out with his colleague to 
attend the Conferences of 1806; but early in April the 
summon came to halt. Fie was then at Dover, in the 
State of Delaware, and in the home of noble Richard 
Bassett; and here he awaited his translation, which 
came on July 5, 1806. In the memoir written by As- 
bury and read before the Conferences of the ensuing 
year appears this Asburian sentiment: "Although 
Bishop Whatcoat was not a man of great erudition, yet 

Abetting the Makers of the Constitution. 201 

probably he had as much learning as some of the 
apostles and primitive bishops, and doubtless sufficient 
for the work of the ministry." The memoir closed 
with this interesting summary : 

"Converted September 3, 1758. 
Sanctified March 28, 1761. 
Began to travel in 1769. 
Elected Superintendent in May, 1800. 
Died in Dover, Delaware, July 5, 1806." 

Ill view of the certain early death of Bishop What- 
coat and the feebleness of Bishop Asbury, a proposition 
had been put on foot by the New York Conference to 
call an electoral Conference of seven elders from each 
of the seven Annual Conferences to meet at Baltimore 
on July 4, 1807, for the purpose of "electing, organiz- 
ing, and establishing a permanent superintendency and 
for other purposes." Bishop Asbury favored the cre- 
ation of such an electoral college, and four Conferences 
indorsed the plan ; but in the Virginia Conference un- 
der the vigorous leadership of Jesse Lee it met com- 
plete defeat. In this he wrought a great and monu- 
mental service. 

Asbury was now completely alone. Whatcoat had 
been removed by the hand of providence, and the Con- 
ferences had plainly intimated to Dr. Coke that they 
disapproved of his removal to the American continent. 
The electoral Conference scheme had also been disal- 
lowed. The connection had declared its faith in As- 
jury and in providence. The confidence of the Church 
was that Brother Asbury would be spared until the 
General Conference of 180S, when the episcopacy 
:ould be legally and regularly strengthened. If no 
aishop should be living when the Conference met, one 

202 Francis Asbnry. 

could be elected, and the elders could consecrate him 
just as Wesley had consecrated Coke. The fear of "a 
break in the succession" disturbed nobody. Metho- 
dism had "followed the Scriptures and the primitive 
Church" in 1784, and could do so with equal confi- 
dence in 1808. There was no leaning upon canons or 

The solitary Bishop was equally confident and se- 
rene, and went his way as in so many years before. 
Every Conference on the calendar was met, and he had 
strength for the arduous labors demanded at each. At 
the Western Conference, though the reports showed 
that fourteen hundred members had been added during 
the year, such was the imperfect financial plan of the 
work that many of the preachers lacked for even ne- 
cessities. The "father confessor" journal of the Bish- 
'op gives us this secret in an entry made while on the 
ground : "The brethren were in want, and could not 
provide clothes for themselves ; so I parted with my 
watch, my coat, and my shirt." No fiction touch of 
Victor Hugo in describing Monsignor Bienvenue sur- 
passes this touch of reality in the daily life of the first 
Bishop of American Methodism. In 1805 he gave to 
the world the grounds of his episcopal claims. They 
were: (1) Divine authority; (2) seniority in America; 
(3) the election of the General Conference; (4) ordi- 
nation by Thomas Coke;* (5) the signs of an apostle 

*The episcopal parchment of Bishop Asbury read as fol- 
lows — viz. : 

"Knozu all men by tlicsc presents, That I, Thomas Coke, 
Doctor of Civil Law, late of Jesus College, in the University 
of Oxford, Presbyter of the Church of England, and Super- 
intendent of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America, 

Abetting the Makers of the Constitution. 203 

that were wrought in him. These signs increased with 
his years. 

At the opening of 1807 he rejoiced in what appeared 
to be perfectly restored health. His New Year's din- 
ner was eaten under a roof of fragrant pine trees on 
the route northward from Sparta, Ga., where he had 
held the "South" Conference some days before. The 
wide round of the year through the Carolinas, Virgin- 
ia, the Middle States, and New England was but little 
varied from the experience of former years, except 
for a journey through the White Mountains, where he 
encountered snow in May, and an extended tour 
through the lake region of Western New York, where 
Methodism was taking ready root. From this region 
he descended through Western Pennsylvania, where 
he visited the two Moravian settlements of Nazareth 

under the protection of Almighty God and with a single eye 
to his glory, by the imposition of my hands and prayer (being 
assisted by two ordained elders) did on the twenty-fifth day 
of this month, December, set apart Francis Asbury for the 
office of a deacon in the aforesaid Methodist Episcopal Church. 
And also the twenty-sixth day of the said month did by the 
imposition of my hands and prayer (being assisted by the said 
elders) set apart the said Francis Asbury for the office of 
elder in the said Methodist Episcopal Church. And on this 
twenty-seventh day of the said month, being the day of the 
date hereof, have by the imposition of my hands and prayer 
(being assisted by the said elders) set apart the said Francis 
Asbury for the office of a superintendent in the said Meth- 
odist Episcopal Church, a man whom I judge to be well 
qualified for that great work. And I do hereby recommend 
him to all whom it may concern as a fit person to preside 
over the flock of Christ. In testimony whereof I have hereunto 
set my hand and seal this twenty-seventh day of December, 
in the year of our Lord 1784. Thomas Coke." 

J04 Francis Asbury. 

and Betlilehem. The throngs to which he preached 
at Conferences, at camp meetings, and in the open 
fields surpassed in numbers and interest those of all 
past years. He now estimated that there were more 
than a hundred and forty thousand Methodists in the 
United States, and that the Methodist preachers were 
preaching to two millions of people. The entire popu- 
lation of the republic was then computed to be about 
five millions. Thus nearly one-half the people of the 
entire country were under the religious influence of 
Asbury and his itinerants. Such were the miraculous 
results of thirty-five years of labor. 

The Western journey was this year distinguished 
by the holding of a Conference at Chillicothe, Ohio, the 
first Methodist Conference ever held in that State, and 
the first ever held north or west of the Ohio River. 
From Chillicothe the Bishop pushed westward for a 
tour through the Miami country, and then southward 
across Kentucky and Tennessee toward his eastward 
destination. As he rode or halted for a brief rest he 
was engaged in compiling an addition to the Hymn 
Book prepared for the American Methodists by Wes- 
ley in 1734. This was congenial occupation, and at 
this time the freshness of his youth seemed to have re- 
turned. He exulted in spirit and reflected with satis- 
faction upon a tour that should next year add to his 
old itinerary the province of Canada and the territory 
of Mississippi. But this was a dream never to be 
fully realized. 

With a record of daily official cares, passing sor- 
rows, and multiplying joys the story of the tireless 
Bishop draws itself on through the early months of 
1808, and the General Conference was again in ses- 

Abetting the Makers of the Constitution. 205 

sion. After twenty-four years of all but undivided 
responsibility in the episcopacy Asbury was to have 
a real and in every way a competent associate in office. 

The General Conference of i8o3 met, as had all its 
predecessors, in Baltimore. It was composed of one 
hundred and twenty-nine members. Its leaders were 
men marked for destiny, and as administrators of the 
commonwealth they had shone with no less distinction 
than as the lawgivers of Israel. In the delegations 
were five men who afterwards became bishops of the 
Church — namely, William McKendree, Enoch George, 
Robert R. Roberts, Joshua Soule, and Elijah Hedding. 

The time had fully come to settle the Methodism of 
the New World on a permanent constitutional basis, 
and the men here assembled were the men destined to 
do it. The Church had now, in fact, but one Bishop, 
and he was in sympathy with and wholly committed to 
the new ideals. Methodism was the most American 
thing in all America. It typed the restless American 
soul. Like the star of empire its course was westward, 
and like the spirit of empire its purpose was conquest. 
Its motto was not only to keep pace with civilization, 
but to mark out a path for civilization — aye, to be itself 
the creator and conservator of civilization. Its ideals 
and doctrines were a unity. It, therefore, only an- 
swered the law of its nature when it sought to pre- 
serve that unity and to prevent its ever-expanding 
forces from being dissipated through lack of regula- 
tion. The one answer to its one loud-voiced need was 
an enduring centripetal compact — a constitution. 

The organization of the Church was completed by 
the writing and adoption of this constitution. The 
general body being formally convened and having 

206 Francis Asbury. 

had sundry memorials laid before it, Bishop As- 
bury called for "the mind of the Conference" on the 
alll-important matter. SLt— was promptly decided that 
there should be a delegated General Conference and 
a constitution "to regulate it." Thereupon a commit- 
tee was ordered, and by the wise foresight of Asbury 
it was provided to be appointed equally from the yearly 
Conferences — two from each — fourteen in all. This 
committee appointed from its members a subcommit- 
tee of three — namely, Ezekiel Cooper, Joshua Soule, 
and Philip Bruce — to draft a report; in other words, 
to write a constitution, though not even these men 
realized the full historic significance of what they did. 
The subcommittee met, and it was agreed that each 
member should write a separate report. Cooper and 
Soule made each a draft ; but Bruce made no writing. 
When the two drafts were submitted, Bruce indorsed 
that made by Soule, and, with slight alterations, it went 
from the large committee to the General Conference. 
As then read it differed but slightly from the instru- 
ment which has subsisted for more than one hundred 
years as the Constitution of Episcopal Methodism in 
its various families. 

The advantage which the strong central Conferences 
enjoyed in the old mass meeting assemblies by reason 
of their nearness to the sittings and their fuller pas- 
toral ranks was a thing not easily to be given up, and 
at first there was a determined effort to modify the 
provisions of the proposed constitution on this point. 
The sharp difference brought on by this issue at one 
time threatened a rupture in the body, and the New 
England delegation asked leave to retire. A number 
of Western delegates also prepared to leave the sit- 

Abetting the Makers of the Constitution. 207 

ting. A spirit of concession, however, arrested the dis- 
organization, and the historic document was finally set- 
tled in the foundations by a strong majority vote. An 
effort was made at this time to put a clause into the 
constitution making the presiding eldership elective ; 
but it failed, and, although many efforts have been 
made during the past century to alter the rule as then 
established, it has remained unchanged. 

It was no secret that Asbury desired the election of 
McKendree to the episcopacy, and a sermon which the 
rustic presiding elder preached before the Conference 
was so satisfactory in spirit and matter that the dele- 
gates concentrated upon him with singular unanimity 
Bishop Asbury says in his journal: "The General Con- 
ference elected dear Brother McKendree to be assist- 
ant bishop." But the old Bishop was greatly mistaken 
in this. William McKendree was elected an associate 
bishop, and a bishop he was, every inch of him, and 
had his apostolate vindicated by signs innumerable. 


In Apostolic Fellowship. 

"The burden is now borne by two pairs of shoul- 
ders instead of one ; the care is cast upon two hearts 
and heads," rejoiced Asbury as he went out from the 
General Conference of 1808. The countenance of his 
colleague gave him joy and his counsels inspired confi- 
dence. The zeal and apostolicity of Asbury were truly 
matched in McKendree. Moreover, in the rugged and 
rustic Westerner Asbury was constantly discovering 
evidences that his coming to power had been an overt 
providence. In consequence of this discovery he 
felt the first easement of the burden of responsibility 
which had rested upon him since the days that Rankin 
and Shadford left him to the primacy of the societies 
in North America. The judgment of Coke he had 
always, with good reason, distrusted ; while the incum- 
bency of Whatcoat had only added to his concern and 
difficulties. Now he saw his own increasing lack of 
service to the Churches about to be supplied by an 
associate as wise, as careful, as tireless as himself. 

Asbury's feelings at this time are well typed in his 
journal. Such humanlike matters as sitting for a por- 
trait in crayon and planning for a month's vacation "in 
the pleasant fields" give variety to his entries. An un- 
commonly sad entry is also to be noted about this time. 
Harry Dorsey Gough, his long-loved friend, had died 
near the opening of the General Conference, and his 
pall had been followed to the grave by the members of 
that body. On the fifth of June to a great throng 

In Apostolic Fellowship. 209 

standing in the open Asbury preached a sermon in 
memory of the dead. "The discourse was very much 
a portraiture of Mr. Gough's religious experience and 
character," which illustrated both the inconstancy of 
human flesh and the miracle-working power of divine 
grace. Gough had known the ecstasy of faith and the 
bitterness of apostasy ; but his days had closed in clear 
and perfect light. Asbury thus saw the friends and 
events of his earlier ministry passing into memory and 

The first official sitting for the new episcopal year 
was that of the Western Conference, calendared to be- 
gin October 1, at Liberty Hill, twelve miles from Nash- 
ville, in the State of Tennessee. McKendree had al- 
ready turned his face westward, and, passing through 
the territory of his former district, crossed the Missis- 
sippi River and entered the Missouri Valley settle- 
ments in the lands recently acquired from the French. 
He was thus the first Methodist Bishop, or as for that 
the first Protestant Bishop, to cross the great midland 
waters and establish a diocese in "the ultimate West." 
Fire fell from his lips as he went, and on his return 
he left a revival burning through the settlements for 
a hundred miles up the romantic valley 

About July 1 Asbury began a slow journey west- 
ward, with the Conference session to be held in the 
Cumberland Basin as his objective point. For a travel- 
ing companion he had engaged Henry Boehm, a strong- 
bodied, consecrated itinerant, of whose father, a Ger- 
man minister in fellowship with Otterbein, we have 
already heard. Asbury's object in selecting Henry 
Boehm was not only to have a companion in travel, 
but also through him to reach the people of the numer- 

2IO Francis Asbury. 

cms German settlements in the Ohio Valley. In this 
office Boehm developed great efficiency, and for several 
years traveled with the Bishop in his wide circuits. 
His notes of their many itineraries are full and spirited, 
and are valuable side lights of the Asburian story. 

The course mapped out by Asbury for his journey 
lay through the States of Maryland, Ohio, parts of the 
territory of Indiana, and thence through Kentucky and 
Tennessee to the southernmost dip of the Cumberland 
Basin. More _than on ce the ailing and feeble Bishop 
sank under the exhaustion caused by the hardships of 
travel, but rose again, sometimes on crutches, some- 
times half borne in the arms of his companion, to enter 
a church or mount his horse for another stage. Nor 
was the journey a profitless one by the way. In chap- 
els, in cabins, and at camp meetings in the wilds scores, 
perhaps hundreds, of people professed converting 
grace. "I rejoice to think there will be four or five 
hundred camp meetings this year. May this outdo all 
former years in the conversion of precious souls to 
God !" mused the faithful man as he rode through the 
straining new lands dotted only here and there with 

The old-time camp meeting has never been fully ap- 
praised as a primordial force. It not only gave fer- 
vency and carrying power to early religious experience 
exposed to the unfriendliness of pioneer crudeness and 
ignorance, but it served to create and cement social 
affinities that resulted in an instant use of sympathy 
and cooperation, and which also typed and determined 
the spirit of the settled community in an after time. 
To trace the silent influences of the Asburian apos- 
tolate on our national life one must fully study both 

In Apostolic Fellowship. 211 

his personal and his official relations to the men and 
women who lit these watch fires of faith and fellow- 
ship across the continent. 

Indian summer, with its haze and calm, was clothing 
the hills of Tennessee when Asbury and his companion 
entered the Cumberland Basin, where Bishop McKen- 
dree met them and conducted them to the seat of the 
Western Conference. The scene of the sitting was a 
camp meeting to which the itinerants had gathered 
"from Holston, Natchez, Opelou^, Missouri, Illinois, 
Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee." In the neighborhood 
of the camp ground was the new borne of the Rev. 
Green Hill, whose name is indissolubly linked with the 
early history of Methodism in North Carolina, and in 
this home the business sessions were held. It was the 
first Conference which McKendree attended as a bish- 
op. It is to be inferred from the tone of Bishop As- 
bury's journal that McKendree took only a minor part 
in the administration of the session. He was naturalh 
in the role of training and introduction for a time ; but 
he early laid hold of the helm of affairs with a strong 
hand and a confident spirit. He saw the necessity for 
and early adopted an orderly plan for "bringing for- 
ward the business of the Conference." Much to the 
disturbance of Asbury, he began to call the presiding 
elders together to consult in making the appointments. 
and thus it is to him that Methodism owes the "cabi- 
net," and the placing of the presiding eldership in pos- 
session of its logical and historic function as an inte- 
grant of the episcopacy. It is indicative of Asbury's 
confidence in McKendree's wisdom and foresight that 
he at last cheerfully acquiesced in every advance which 
his colleague proposed. 

212 Francis Asbury. 

The synod in the wilderness having concluded its 
business, the two Bishops, with Asbury's companion, 
Boehm, started across the mountains eastward for the 
round of the Atlantic Conferences, whose sittings were 
to run into the middle of the year 1809. The next 
in order after the Western was the South Carolina, or, 
as Asbury laconically puts it, the "South" Conference; 
and this was their present objective, though a great 
preaching and visiting detour was made through parts 
of North Carolina, with the inevitable circle through 
Charleston, which was a stage or two from the seat of 
the Conference at Milledgeville, Ga. The Senior Bish- 
op's notion was that the people should see and know 
their General Superintendents. His labor was to show 
himself the servant of all ; and in this purpose and its 
execution he found his associate no whit behind him- 
self. Together in "a thirty-dollar chaise" they rode 
their wide circuit, did these two primitive, heroic, apos- 
tolic Bishops. On their journey "great news" came to 
them concerning revivals in every quarter. Baltimore 
and Bohemia Manor, the early loves of Asbury, had 
been blessed with extraordinary visitations. "Camp 
meetings have done this !" exclaimed Asbury, adding 
a new strophe to his song of tabernacles. 

Of course the Asburian rote of reading, writing, 
prayers, and meditations went on daily. It would seem 
that as the travels of the sexagenarian Bishop in- 
creased his capacity for reading also increased, for his 
journal tells constantly of incursions into new volumes, 
though they were generally of the same class as those 
read in earlier years, and so could not have suggested 
c! ny strikingly new ideals or brought to him radically 
fresh interpretations of life, manners, or theology. 

In Apostolic Fellozvship. 213 

The Conference session in Georgia is now chiefly 
memorable as the one at which William Capers was 
received on trial into the traveling connection. As 
preacher, editor, educator, missionary secretary, and 
bishop, the name of William Capers remains one of 
the chief glories of our history. As "the founder of 
the missions to the slaves" he will be remembered, 
perhaps, when every other claim to renown has been 
disallowed. He early grew into the affection and con- 
fidence of Asbury, and the pictures which he sketched 
of the tenderness, simplicity, and human kindness of 
the venerable Superintendent are pleasing in the ex- 

The Conference in Georgia had been held during the 
Christmas-New Year week. Through the snows and 
biting winds of January the two Bishops and their 
companion proceeded to Tarboro, N. C, where the 
Virginia Conference was to begin its sitting on Febru- 
ary 1. McKendree was here amongst his kith and 
kin, and took a large share in the administrations. This 
was even now a Conference great in its personnel. At 
least sixty of the itinerants were reckoned by Asbury 
to be "the most pleasing and promising young men." 
But, with three exceptions, they were unmarried. 
Why? Because the high taste of the Southerners 
would not permit their daughters to wed with men 
so poor in worldly goods. "All the better," declared 
Asbury, for a celibate clergy was his preference, if 
not his ideal. 

The question of African slavery, always uppermost 
with Asbury, was again on the Conferences, but as 
far out of the way of settlement as before. In his 
journal he asks a question which may well be taken 

214 Francis Asbury. 

as expressing the crux of the discussion in those ear- 
lier years. "Would not an amelioration in the condi- 
tion and treatment of the slaves have produced more 
practical good to the poor African than any attempt 
at their emancipation?" Happily, the question has 
now only a reminiscential interest. The recital, how- 
ever, serves to show the sanity and moderation of the 
first Bishop of American Methodism. 

The sessions of the Baltimore, Philadelphia, and 
New York Conferences, which followed in succession 
after the "rising" of the Virginians, were without note- 
worthy incident. In both New York and Philadelphia, 
however, Asbury had such tangles and annoyances of 
administration to deal with as caused him to sensibly 
recall the days of his early pastorates in those cities. 
The three Conference sessions and the necessary in- 
tervals between them carried the episcopal calendar 
forward to a date near the end of May. In the mean- 
time not a few refreshing experiences came to Asbury 
and his two traveling companions, McKendree and 
Boehm, to whom he affectionately refers as "the young 
men." Calls were made during the northward journey 
at Baltimore and Barrett's Chapel, both luminous spots 
in the memory of the Senior Superintendent. At 
"Perry Hall" he tarried long enough to view the graves 
of his departed friends, the Goughs. "The image of 
my dear departed Harry Gough was very present to 
me," is a touch in his journal at this place wondrously 
and humanly illuminating. Great friendships are pos- 
sible only to great souls. Hearing at this juncture 
that the son of a former familiar in the township of 
the Goughs had enlisted and gone to serve with the 
military in New Orleans, he resolved instantly to send 

In Apostolic Fellowship. 215 

a missionary to that far-away city, and wrote to the 
presiding elder of the Mississippi District to dispatch 
a man to the new field. Gregory did not more truly 
covet the Engles than did this man the new-made 
Americans in the South, nor did the Pontiff act so 
promptly as did the miterless head of the youngest 
Protestant sect. 

At Barrett's Chapel Asbury had an incentive to re- 
view the four and twenty years that followed his meet- 
ing with Coke and the adoption of their wise and 
Heaven-guided plans for realizing the ideals of "the 
Scriptures and the primitive Church." Amid the 
shades of this quietude he was visited by his "dear 
friends, Governor Basset and his lady," who drove 
nearly forty miles to meet him. A simple tribute paid 
to simple worth. This man made his friends a part 
of himself. 

Of another sort is the journal note concerning the 
"steamboat" — "a great invention." This the two Bish- 
ops and their rustic Mark saw in the Hudson soon 
after Fulton had made it a potent and prophetic fact. 
"My attention was strongly excited," writes Asbury. 
No man was better fitted than he to measure in a mo- 
ment of anticipation the meaning to the New World 
cf this tide-climbing invention. He knew the vast 
distances that separated the nation's centers of life 
and wealth. He knew also the courses and had meas- 
ured with his eye the capable bosoms of America's 
great rivers. In vision he saw the wonders of a time 
made possible by the magic of steam. 

The New England Conference, held at Monmouth, 
District of Maine, completed the episcopal round for 
the year. Methodism had struck its roots deeply and 

2i6 Francis Asbury. 

firmly in the soil of the land of "the Presbyterians;" 
but Asbury saw much that displeased and troubled 
him — much in the land, much in the conduct of Meth- 
odist affairs. Most of all, he deplored his own lack 
of an intimate knowledge of the field and the men. 
The standard of responsibility which he set for him- 
self in the oversight of the general work was not lower 
than that which he set for his preachers in the care of 
their circuits. 

By the customary circuitous route through the lake 
region of New York and southward through Pennsyl- 
vania the two Bishops and their companion were at 
last at the end of the year's long journey. But it was 
only to begin again the ceaseless round of the conti- 
nent. Within a fortnight they were in Ohio, on the 
way to Cincinnati, where the Western Conference was 
to meet at the end of September. It is indicative of 
the courtesy and refinement of Asbury 's nature that 
the hardships which he so often endured and the un- 
couth manners which he so often met did not sap the 
strength nor dim the perfection of his ideals. Sleep- 
ing often on the bare floors of cabins, constantly cov- 
ered with dust or bespattered with mud in the way, 
dining on coarse and ill-prepared food, and not seldom 
amid squalid and unsanitary surroundings, neither the 
dignity of manliness nor the gentleness of sainthood 
ever forsook him. In spirit he quickly recognized a 
discourtesy, and in his soul reprobated a boorish man, 
though it is doubtful if he habitually expressed him- 
self on such shortcomings except to his journal. To 
the keeping of that confidant he committed the record 
of many brutish manners and even personal slights. 
In one of these records is recited the fact that while 

In Apostolic Fellowship. 217 

he was preaching in a certain place a presiding elder 
put his feet upon the chancel. This breach of deco- 
rum greatly annoyed the one-time saddler's appren- 
tice, whose religion had helped to make him a prince 
of good manners. 

Particularly delicate were his courtesies to Bishop 
McKendree, although he had written of him at first 
as an "assistant ;" and although the strength and fore- 
sight of McKendree often vetoed the judgment of his 
senior, there seems, in fact, never to have been a se- 
rious jar in their relations. When they were sepa- 
rated, as happened in the early part of the second 
year's journey, Asbury habitually wrote to his asso- 
ciate in a tone of affectionate tenderness, as also of 
apostolic counsel. 

The session of the Western Conference for 1809 
must have been something in the nature of a Pente- 
cost. The fires of revival were burning in every 
direction ; and when the two Bishops met at Cincin- 
nati to station the preachers, they found three thou- 
sand worshipers ready to join in the devotions. The 
reports for the year showed that the increase in this 
field was two thousand six hundred and sixty-six mem- 
bers over all losses. 

Turning from the wilderness echoing with the shouts 
of victorious Israel and glowing with camp fires, the 
episcopal party found itself at the end of a month on 
the North Carolina seaboard. It was the eighth time 
within nine years that Asbury had scaled "the Amer- 
ican Alps," as he constantly named the Appalachian 
chains. In his day he decreed that there should be 
no Alps. 

As was now a custom with him, Asbury took a little 

218 Francis Asbury. 

needed rest near the year's end, in the genial and 
healthful atmosphere of Charleston. Here at Christ- 
mastide the Conference sat. That body arising just 
before New Year's, he immediately set out with his 
associate on a tour that ended on February 8 at Peters- 
burg, the seat of the Virginia Conference. The land 
was now filled with memories for the aged itinerant. 
Nearly forty years had elapsed since he began to ride 
the reaches over which this journey carried him. "Here 
were great times thirty years ago !" he wrote. Saith 
not the Word, "Your old men shall dream dreams?" 
But this man was a seer also. 

A few weeks after this his course brought him to 
Deer Creek, in the State of Maryland. If the scenes 
in Virginia had stirred his memories, how must these 
earlier surroundings have been peopled with spiritual 
presences? To add to the memory fructifying scenes, 
he here met Father Boehm and Henry Watters. The 
places of earth — high places and low — get their mean- 
ing from the footprints of life. This was Asbury's 
last visit to this region, as also his last sight of these 
venerable men. 

At the Virginia Conference Asbury was called upon 
to decide whether or not the Bishops had the "right 
to form the eighth or Genesee Conference." His de- 
cision was affirmative, and the new Conference to be 
"composed of the Susquehannah, Cayuga, Upper and 
Lower Canada Districts," was scheduled to meet at 
Lyons, State of New York, July 20, 1810. Having 
officially visited the Baltimore, Philadelphia, New 
York, and New England Conferences, the Bishops 
came in due course and time to the sitting of the new 
Conference. After seeing the business of the bodv 

In Apostolic Fellowship. 219 

conducted to its conclusion, Asbury expressed the opin- 
ion that its creation had been the most judicious act 
of the joint episcopacy. But the Annual Conferences 
were not unanimously of this view. There was much 
criticism of both Asbury and McKendree in the differ- 
ent sittings, and they were charged with exceeding 
their prerogative ; but the Bishops relied upon an un- 
rescinded order of the General Conference of 1796. 
The matter finally went to the General Conference of 
1812, which declared that "the Genesee Conference 
is a legally constituted and organized Conference." 
Whatever the construed rights of the episcopacy in 
that early day to change Conference boundaries and 
establish new jurisdictions, they passed to the larger 
prerogative of the General Conference, which must 
take the initiative and give authority for such admin- 
istrative acts. 

The long and tedious path across the Alleghany 
Mountains and down the far-stretching Ohio Valley 
to the center of the Western Conference is now a fa- 
miliar one. Over this path Bishop Asbury made his 
way in a sulky during September and October of 1810. 
In company with Bishop McKendree, Learner Black- 
man, James Gwin, and Peter Cartwright, he came on 
November 1 to a chapel in Shelby County, Kentucky, 
where the Conference was held. The sitting over, the 
feeble Bishop rejoiced in a reported increase of four 
thousand members for the year, sold his sulky, and 
prepared for a winter horseback ride across the moun- 
tains into the Carolinas. Unable now to preach with 
the frequency and force of former years, he adopted 
a new method of evangelizing by the way. To travel- 
ers and at the doors of cabins and farmhouses he 

220 Francis Asbury. 

distributed small religious tracts in German or Eng- 
lish, as his discerning ear or eye dictated. It was thus 
that he became the pioneer in the circulation of reli- 
gious tracts and books, a rule that became an effective 
instrumentality in the hands of a generation or two of 
Methodist preachers coming later. 

It was during this year that Asbury read the history 
of American Methodism brought out by Jesse Lee. 
The differences between Asbury and Lee were an open 
secret, and the Eishop, judging from an entry in his 
journal, was both gratified and surprised to find that 
the historian had dealt more considerately with him 
than he expected. He felt moved to correct but a 
single statement of the volume, and one which involved 
a matter of small moment. 

At the opening of the new year cheery news came 
from the North to the two Bishops in Charleston. The 
troubles in the Genesee Conference which appear to 
have taken on a connectional aspect were reported 
composed, and the General Superintendents breathed 
more freely. 

Two noteworthy records were made by Asbury in 
connection with the Conference round of this year. 
The South Carolina Conference convened at Colum- 
bia, and was held in the parlors of the spacious home 
of United States Senator Taylor, who, with his fam- 
ily, was in warm sympathy with the Methodists. The 
members of the Conference were entertained in the 
many chambers of the hospitable establishment. The 
Virginia Conferences being appointed to meet in Ra- 
leigh, N. C, the State officers hospitably put the Sen- 
ate Chamber and Hall of Representatives at the dis- 
posal of the body. The business sessions were held 

In Apostolic Fellowship. 221 

in the Chamber, while the Hall was devoted to preach- 
ing services three times each day. Many converts were 
claimed, amongst them Secretary of State Hill and 
several members of his family. The Church was thus 
greatly strengthened in that center. 

In his progress northward the Bishop and his com- 
pany were entertained at Germantown, Pa., bv Dr. 
Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and 
a man of renown in his day. At the end of the visit 
Asbury, who had been professionally advised b}' the 
Doctor and his associate, asked what he should pay 
"Nothing, only an interest in your prayers," was the 
reply, both physicians being devout Christians. "As 
I do not like to be in debt," replied Asbury, "we will 
pray now," and with that he called the company to 
prayer on the spot. 

At the height of summer, and between the sittings 
of the New England and the Genesee Conferences, 
Asbury crossed the St. Lawrence and made a tour of 
a fortnight's length through Southern Canada. He 
saw comparatively little of the country, but got a fair 
idea of conditions there. He saw difficulties, but was 
cheered with prospects. His patriotic American feel- 
ings were deeply stirred while crossing the line. Re- 
turning from the hardship of the adventure, he fell, 
sick and fainting, in the arms of Bishop McKendree, 
for whom his affection increased each day. 

The Annual Conference sessions of the summer, au- 
tumn, winter, and early spring returned delegates to 
the General Conference to be held in New York May 
1, 1812. This was to be the first delegated ses- 
sion of that body, and much interest centered around 
the elections. The absorbing issue then before the con- 

222 Francis Asbury. 

nection was the status of the presiding eldership. 
Should it remain an office to be filled by the appoint- 
ment of the bishops, or should the Annual Confer- 
ences elect the incumbents by ballot? Asbury was 
deeply concerned that the old rule should not be sub- 
stituted, and it is certain that McKendree shared his 
sentiments. The issue influenced the elections to no 
small extent ; but we shall see how a conclusion favora- 
ble to the old order was reached in the general Metho- 
dist mind even before the death of Asbury. 

The Sunset Vision. 

The General Conference of 1812 — the first dele- 
gated convention of the Church — was looked forward 
to with concern by Asbury and the other Methodist 
leaders. It was expected that its actions would severe- 
ly test the strength and utility of the constitution ; but 
the session passed without stress or crucial issue. The 
new order followed the old, as one stage of life suc- 
ceeds another. Methodism, which originated in a 
series of unmistakable providences, was not left to 
chance, nor to the unaided counsels of men in settling 
the enduring principles of its polity. The constitution, 
which developed out of experience and necessity, an- 
swered naturally to Methodist history and expansion. 

This General Conference — the last which Asbury at- 
tended — was opened by him in the usual simple way 
— that is, with Scripture-reading, song, and prayer. 
Ninety delegates were seated in the audience room of 
the historic John Street Church, New York City. 
Rules of order, described as being a reduction of the 
Jeffersonian manual, were brought in, but were soon 
found to be cumbersome and impracticable, and so 
were promptly abandoned for a simpler and more 
common-sense code. 

Bishop McKendree introduced very early in the ses- 
sion a departure which became a precedent in all sub- 
sequent General Conferences, and which has greatly 
helped to illuminate the paths of Methodist legislation. 
He submitted to the Conference a written address, set- 


224 Francis Asbury. 

ting forth his views on the state and needs of the 
connection. To this act of his colleague Asbury of- 
fered the objection that it was an innovation and nee !- 
less ; but after McKendree had briefly expounded his 
reasons for the step, the venerable man acquiesced with 
a smile. Later, on his own behalf, he addressed the 
Conference, through his colleague, in much the same 
spirit and also to much the same end. It was charac- 
teristic of Asbury that, self-sufficient though he was in 
his mastery of men and affairs, when shown the ad- 
vantage of a new method or departure, he was quick 
to fall in with it, and nursed no sentiment of 
which prevented him from profiting by it to the fullest. 
An example of this was the spirit in which he finally 
abandoned the plan of a council for that of a delegated 
General Conference. 

For a body so historically important the session of 
the General Conference of 1812 accomplished but lit- 
tle that was of lasting significance. There was, in 
fact, but little demand for new legislation. The vali- 
dation of the joint action of the Bishops in creating 
the Genesee Conference, the division of the Western 
Conference into the Ohio and the Tennessee Confer- 
ences, the making of local deacons eligible to elders' 
orders, and a fresh refusal to take the appointment of 
the presiding elders out of the hands of the bishops 
and leave their selection to a majority vote of the 
Annual Conference practically outlines the work of the 
entire sitting. 

Bishop Asbury had for some time had in contempla- 
tion a visit to his early home and friends in England, 
and had planned to begin his journey thither soon 
after the adjournment of the General Conference. 

The Sunset Vision. 225 

This had led Bishop McKendree to suggest in his 
address to the Conference the propriety of strength- 
ening the episcopacy by the election of an additional 
bishop. Both the address of Bishop McKendree and 
the verbal communication of Bishop Asbury were re- 
ferred to a committee styled "the Committee on Epis- 
copacy," consisting of one member from each Annual 
Conference, an order which has ever since obtained. 
This committee reported unfavorably on the request 
of Bishop Asbury to be permitted to visit Europe, 
although it appeared that an invitation to do so had 
been extended him by the British Wesleyan Confer- 
ence. Several reasons seem to have influenced the 
committee in denying this request. First, the confi- 
dence of the American preachers in Asbury 's leader- 
ship was only equaled by their love for him. They 
also feared a repetition of the embarrassments which 
had come upon the connection through the continued 
absences of Bishop Coke. Should Asbury be given 
a leave of absence from the continent, it would mean, 
as they viewed it, a suspension for the time of his 
episcopal functions. That had been the rule applied 
to Coke, and they could not contemplate their patriarch 
in a similar situation with other feelings than those of 
personal distress. Just then, too, the shadows of the 
second war with Great Britain were deepening on the 
land, and hostilities actually began within the next few 
weeks. The whole truth is, the American preachers, 
one and all, felt that the cause they represented was 
safer when Asbury was near at hand and in their 
councils. He could not be spared. 

The decision not to consent to Asbury's proposed 
European visit put an end to the scheme for electing 

226 Francis Asbury. 

a third bishop. Asbury renewed his pledge to serve 
the connection with all his powers of body and mind 
as long and as largely as he could, and the incident 
was closed. 

The order of journey made by the two Bishops im- 
mediately following the General Conference was much 
the same as in former years. It was up through 
the Middle States, across New England, southward 
through Western New York and Pennsylvania, into 
the great valleys of the West, and back to the Atlantic 
seaboard, in the Carolinas. The initial sessions of the 
new Conferences — Ohio and Tennessee — were note- 
worthy incidents of the year. The former met in 
Chillicothe, which brought Asbury back to a circle of 
old friends and to the springs of tender memories. 
On the journey southward he preached in the new 
Statehouse at Frankfort and visited Louisville. Com- 
ing to Nashville, he found a neat new brick meeting- 
house "thirty-four feet square, with galleries." This 
was one of the half dozen predecessors of the present 
McKendree Church, the "Jerusalem" house of South- 
ern Methodism. From Nashville together the two 
Bishops journeyed to Fountain Head, in Sumner 
County, Tenn., where, in connection with a camp meet- 
ing, the Tennessee Conference was to be held. It was 
on or near these grounds that, twenty-three years later, 
the dust of McKendree was to find sepulture; and 
though, after forty years, that dust was to be given a 
new resting place on the campus of Vanderbilt Univer- 
sity, the original marble slab still marks, as a ceno- 
taph, the place where he slept. 

The Conference which met at Charleston, S. C, in 
December of this year, and which Asbury attended 

The Sunset Vision. 227 

with something of his old-time relish and exhilaration, 
is to be remembered as the session at which James O. 
Andrew was received on trial. The future bishop and 
destined divider of the world, a rustic lad of nineteen, 
almost wholly unlettered and wholly inexperienced, 
was not at the Conference, but awaited in his father's 
cabin in the eastern reaches of Georgia the scarcely 
hoped for tidings that he had been accepted as an 
itinerant Methodist preacher. The potencies which 
afterwards burst like a storm about the head of this 
man, and dissevered the house of Methodism, were 
then lying dormant in an ill-shaped and an ill-admin- 
istered rule on African slavery. The age which might 
have anticipated and prevented the distresses of a 
future day lacked both the foresight and the unity de- 
manded by its opportunity. But the room of history 
is large. 

In June, 1813, seeing how his strength ebbed, As- 
bury made his will, naming as his executors Bishop 
McKendree, Daniel Hitt, Book Agent of the Church, 
and Henry Boehm, his faithful traveling companion. 
His estate, as he himself estimated it, was worth about 
two thousand dollars. This had come to him chiefly 
through the generosity of friends in Maryland. The 
whole sum was bequeathed to the Book Concern. "Let 
it return," he wrote, "and continue to aid the cause of 
piety." It is doing its work to-day in the apportioned 
publishing funds of the two Episcopal Methodisms. 

In the course of this year's Conference visitations 
Asbury began to see the advantages of McKendree's 
plan for a cabinet of presiding elders in making the 
appointments. "The presiding eldership and the epis- 
copacy saw eye to eye in the business of the stations," 

228 Francis Asbury. 

he wrote about this time ; "there were no murmurings 
from the eighty-four employed." 

This was the Bishop's last full year of work. He 
completed with McKendree the round of the inhabited 
republic, except the territory of Mississippi, and he 
still hoped to see this ; but the time was come to relax. 
He had ridden five thousand miles during eight months, 
and had done the work of a bishop ; but "on the peace- 
ful banks of the Saluda" it came to him to write a 
valedictory address to the presiding elders, and to sig- 
nify to his colleague that henceforth the burden was 
to weigh more heavily on his shoulders. This not that 
he meant to cease altogether from labors, but that he 
felt himself no longer able to bear the heavy crown of 
responsibility. He was ripe for release, but, like the 
aged St. John, he craved the joy of prophesying to 
the end. It was during this year that he met for the 
last time his faithful friend, Otterbein. The two ven- 
erable men had a long and soulful interview and an 
affectionate leave-taking. Shortly after this the great 
German leader was gathered to his fathers, remem- 
bered as a great and faithful leader. 

In 1814 Henry Boehm found it necessary to termi- 
nate the arrangement he had made with Bishop Asbury 
to be his traveling companion. For five years he had 
been almost constantly at the side of the Methodist 
patriarch, and had come to know and share as few 
men had his thought and confidence. Many years aft- 
erwards, as has already been stated, he published the 
notes which he kept during his long attendance upon 
the heads of the Church, for Bishop McKendree was 
seldom himself separated from his colleague in his 
travels. The Boehm reminiscences have been most 

The Sunset Vision, ?2o, 

helpful in filling up the gaps in the history of the joint 
Asbury and McKendree administration. 

Having lost the services of Boehm, Bishop Asbury 
applied to the Baltimore Conference for the detach- 
ment of one of its members to serve him in that stead. 
The choice fell upon John Wesley Bond. The selec- 
tion was happy and fitting, and brought to the invalid 
during the remaining days of his life a congenial com- 
panionship and a faithful and tender ministry. Both 
Calvary and the Transfiguration were on the sufferer 
in those days. "I groan one minute in pain, and shout 
'Glory !' the next." So he wrote, and so it was with 

And now came to Asbury a sorrow such as he had 
not felt since the death of Wesley. While on a mis- 
sion voyage to India, Thomas Coke died and was 
buried in the Indian Ocean, eastward off the Cape of 
Good Hope. Bishop Coke is not only entitled to be 
called the foreign minister of Methodism, but his claim 
to a place amongst the very first and greatest missiona- 
ries of the world is beyond dispute. In 1813 he com- 
pleted a plan for planting missionary stations across 
half the world. To this enterprise he pledged his pri- 
vate fortune, which was not small. Also he succeeded 
in committing to his enterprise a goodly number of his 
Wesleyan brethren. With these, having obtained the 
indorsement of the British Conference, he set sail in 
December for Ceylon; but on May 2, 1814, he expired, 
and his bodv was sdven the sea for a mausoleum. His 
companions went on with the enterprise, and estab- 
lished in India the mission stations that in their growth 
have made the Wesleyan Church one of the greatest 
missionary forces of the world. The news of the 

230 Francis Asbury. 

death of his former colleague did not reach Asbury 
until many months after it occurred. The testimony 
which he bore to his memory was characteristic and 
eloquent. In his journal stand these words : "Thomas 
Coke, of the third branch of Oxonian Methodists ; as 
a minister of Christ, in zeal, in labors, and in services, 
the greatest man of the last century." 

A new feature of comfort was added to Asbury's 
western journey in the year 1814. Sometime early 
in the year friends in Philadelphia presented him with 
"a light four-wheeled carriage." This was the "chaise" 
in which he made his last episcopal visitation, and in 
which he rode until "the horsemen of Israel" hailed 
him for the ascent of the skies. 

A.t the Ohio Conference he attempted to preside, 
Bishop McKendree having been so seriously crippled 
by a fall from his horse as not to be able to be present. 
The task, however, proved too much for his strength, 
so he resigned both the chair and the stations into the 
hands of John Sale, an elder, who had been elected by 
the Conference to preside. The presbyter easily met 
the demands of the post. The success of this neces- 
sary expedient gave Asbury great satisfaction. "The 
Conferences are now out of their infancy," he mused ; 
"their rulers can now be called from amongst them- 
selves." As a father who, unmindful of the growth 
of his sons that move about him from day to day, 
awakes from a life dream to see his offspring standing 
shoulder to shoulder with himself, so Asbury awoke 
to find his spiritual sons of a stature that he had not 
noted. Except in worth and wisdom of soul, there 
were many about him who easily overtopped his own 
venerable head. 

The Sunset Vision. 231 

At the Tennessee Conference, a month later, he 
stood more firmly on his feet, and would have set out 
from that point for the far-away Natchez stations, but 
Bishop McKendree's disabled condition rendered such 
a course impossible. Within a fortnight Asbury's 
strength had again failed, and he was admonished that 
the end of his pilgrimage was near. From October, 
1814, to October, 1815, he dragged a constantly halt- 
ing and suffering body around his wonted circuit of 
six to eight thousand miles; but it was no more to 
utter the voice of command, but to say farewells to 
those who should see his face no more. Everywhere 
he spoke words of tenderness and warning, and 
preached the message of perfect love. "The time is 
short," was a refrain in his sermons which all men 
remembered. One who saw him about this time wrote 
of him thus: "In appearance he was a picture of plain- 
ness and simplicity : an old man spare and tall, but 
remarkably clean, with a plain frock coat, drab or 
mixed waistcoat, and small clothes of the same kind, 
a neat stock, a broad-brimmed hat, with an uncommon 
low crown ; while his white locks, venerable with age, 
added a simplicity to his appearance it is not easy to 

True to his practical instincts, even in these totter- 
ing days, he carried around the continent his favorite 
"mite" subscription list for the relief of the ministry — 
a feeble but well-meant means for supplying the gigan- 
tic defects of a primitive and mistakenly conceived 
system of Church finance. 

Nearing the seaboard in 181 5, he learned with joy 
of the treaty of peace which ended the second war 
with Great Britain. A few days later his patriotic 

232 Francis Asbury. 

resentment was stirred by a sight of the charred ruins 
of the President's house and the Capitol at Washing- 
ton. Twice had his heart — once in his prime and then 
in his old age — supported contending emotions of love 
and loyalty for his native land and the land of his 
adoption ; and this also had brought him a measure of 

Passing through Virginia, he had been entertained 
by the fourth generation of the Jarratts, whose fellow- 
ship awakened within him memories of the early re- 
vival which in a time of trial had strengthened his soul 
and fixed his purpose to remain in America. Now he 
saw again "Perry Hall," and for the last time rested 
his weary body within its hallowed walls. Some weeks 
later he was at Croton, in the State of New York, the 
home of his great and influential friend, Governor Van 
Cortlandt ; but the mighty man of faith and deeds had 
gone to his rest. A voice was speaking above the 
sleeping dust, but a living voice called the weary apos- 
tle onward. The cessation of war had again opened 
the gate to Canada, and he had already laid special 
plans for the rehabilitation of the work beyond the St. 
Lawrence. At the New England Conference, which 
he had undertaken to hold in the absence of Bishop 
McKendree, he was unable to preside, and George 
Pickering filled the chair, and sat with the cabinet in 
stationing the preachers. 

By a shortened line of travel the Bishop and his 
companion returned to Maryland, where he completed 
the revision of his journal. Of this journal he says: 
"As a record of the early history of Methodism in 
America, it will be of use, and, accompanied by the 
Minutes of the Conference, will tell all that will be 

The Sunset Vision. 233 

necessary to know. I have buried in shades all that 
will be proper to forget." 

The summertide was now at its height, and the 
genial sunshine had stayed a little the course of his mal- 
ady. He rallied perceptibly, and entered upon his last 
journey to the West in comparative comfort of body ; 
but the winds of autumn that met him in the distant 
Ohio Valley quickly relegated him to his former con- 
dition of all but helpless invalidism. Blistering and 
bleeding were his remedies for anaemia and inanition. 
Unbelievable empiricism ! Incredible credulity of the 
age ! But suffering many things both of his disorders 
and his physicians, the uncomplaining invalid crept on, 
distributing Testaments when he could not preach and 
disbursing amongst his need}- brethren the mite fund 
which he had collected with infinite patience and zeal. 

While journeying from Ohio toward the seat of the 
Tennessee Conference through the succession of rich 
valleys that made the virgin land, he heard voices call- 
ing through the soft autumn winds, and saw doors' 
opening through the glory of blue horizons and 
through uplooming hills, dappled with the hues of 
changing foliage. "This western part of the empire," 
he said to McKendree, "will be the glory of America. 
There should be five Conferences marked out here." 
One of his later successors in office, commenting on 
these words, says : "Where he would have been con- 
tent with five Conferences, we now have fifty." So 
have the people called Methodists multiplied and re- 
plenished the lands. But the voices which Asbury 
heard and the visions which he saw did not deceive 
him ; he saw the future unfold its wonders, but he saw 
not all. 

234 Francis Asbury. 

The Tennessee Conference session fell at Bethle- 
hem, near Lebanon, in the early days of October, 1815. 
It was Asbury's last Conference. He arrived in his 
chaise in good time, but was unable either to preside 
or to arrange the stations. He preached on the Sab- 
bath and ordained the deacons. With that he laid 
down the episcopal office. His journal carries the sad 
record in these words : "My eyes fail ; I resign the 
stations to Bishop McKendree ; I will take away my 

One earthly wish remained. It was to meet the Gen- 
eral Conference called to sit in Baltimore the follow- 
ing May. For the long journey thither he husbanded 
his strength. Nearly two scores of times he had scaled 
the Appalachian barriers. For thirty-one successive 
years, with a single break, he had visited the valleys 
of the Holston and the Cumberland. They were to him 
what Hebron was to Caleb — a southland with springs 
of water. But now from the heights of "the Alps" 
he took his last view of them. A sigh of regret and 
a shout of triumph mingled his emotions, and he set 
his face toward Maryland, after having foregone his 
dream of a midwinter rest in Charleston. 

During his slow progress through South Carolina 
he completed as far as he was able an address for the 
General Conference and a communication to Bishop 
McKendree. He also dictated a lengthy letter to Rev. 
Joseph Benson, of the English Conference, the origi- 
nal of which is now in my possession in the hand of 
an amanuensis. As it was unsigned, it is almost cer- 
tain that it was never transmitted to the great com- 

The last entry made in his journal was on Decern- 

The Sunset Vision. 235 

ber 7, 1 81 5 ; but it was the twentieth day of the month 
before he finally abandoned the hope of reaching 
Charleston and turned northward. He was then near 
the middle of the State of South Carolina ; but though 
he traveled as the weather and his strength permitted, 
so feeble Was he and so frequently was his companion 
constrained to halt that he might rest, they reached 
Richmond, Va., only at the end of three months. Fre- 
quently during this stage of his journey he attempted 
to preach, but his voice was too weak to be heard ex- 
cept by those near his person. However, having ar- 
rived at Richmond with his traveling companion, on 
Monday, March 18, he announced his purpose to speak 
to the congregation in the old meetinghouse on the 
following Sabbath. Friends undertook to dissuade 
him from this course, but his reply was that he had 
a special call to give his testimony in that place. Strong 
and loyal hands lifted him into his carriage and he was 
driven to the door of the sanctuary he loved. Again 
he was tenderly lifted and borne into the church, where 
a chair had been placed for him upon a table within 
the chancel. Thus seated he discoursed for nearly an 
hour, and with surprisingly sustained voice and power, 
from Romans ix. 28 : "For he will finish the work, and 
cut it short in righteousness : because a short work will 
the Lord make upon the earth." It was his last sermon 
— in fact, his last public ministration of any kind. 
When the feebly kindled glow of action left his frame, 
the chill of death set in. But the hope — the purpose — to 
reach, ere death should seal his eyes, the green shores 
of the Chesapeake still reigned in the soul of the saint 
and patriot. During the next five days, riding in their 
closed carriage, he and his companion covered fifty- 

236 Francis Asbury, 

seven additional miles of their way. The final halt 
was made at the home of George Arnold, an old and 
often visited friend. The place was twenty miles short 
of the city of Fredericksburg, which the travelers had 
hoped to reach by the succeeding Sabbath. On Satur- 
day the Bishop showed extreme feebleness, and passed 
a restless night, but refused to permit the calling of a 
physician. Early the next day he frankly expressed 
his belief that the end was at hand. Being asked by 
his companion if he had any word to leave for the 
Conference or his colleague, his reply was that he had 
already written and spoken so fully that further word 
was unnecessary. 

Asking the hour of the day, and being told that it 
was the hour of eleven, he requested that the family 
and his companion gather in his chamber for worship. 
Strangely and significantly enough, the Scripture les- 
son for the evening of that day in the Sunday service 
was the last chapter of the Revelation. This chapter 
Bond read and expounded, the closing lesson of the 
day closing the days of the labors of that faithful, sim- 
ple life. "During the whole of the meeting," wrote 
Bond, "his soul seemed much engaged. He appeared 
much elevated, and raised his hands frequently in token 
of triumph." Truly affecting was his direction given 
to Bond to "read the mite subscription," thus showing 
that he remembered the toiling missionaries even in his 
dying moments. Being told that only the family was 
present, he said no more. His voice had failed. Asked 
if he still found the Master precious, he lifted his hands 
toward heaven, and "then, without a groan or a com- 
plaint," yielded up his spirit to God. The solemn scene 
was closed on the moment of four o'clock in the after- 

The Sunset Vision. 237 

noon of the Sabbath, March 31, 1816, as is learned 
from the letter of Bond to Bishop McKendree. 

He was buried, with simple undertaking and cere- 
mony, in the family burying ground of his host and 
friend, George Arnold, and only a few rods from the 
door of the cottage in which he expired. A month, 
later, when the General Conference met in Baltimore, 
plans were completed to have his body exhumed* and 
buried in a grave under the pulpit of Eutaw Street 
Church, in Baltimore. On the 9th of May the body 
arrived under escort of Philip Bruce, Nelson Reed, 
Freeborn Garrettson, Lewis Myers, and George Pick- 
ering. A guard of honor was detailed from the Con- 
ference to watch the casket that night, during which 
time it rested in Light Street Church. The next day 

*In June of the year 1907, under the direction of Rev. 
Charles D. Bulla, pastor of the Church at Alexandria, Va., 
the Epworth Leaguers of the Washington District, Methodist 
Episcopal Church, South, erected upon the site of the George 
Arnold house a marble marker to which it is hoped in the not 
distant future to add an equestrian statue of the "Pioneer 
Bishop." Dr. Bulla gives the following account of the pil- 
grimage and transaction: "It was at Fredericksburg that our 
Leaguers of the Washington District met June 25, 1907. All 
that was needed to make a good Conference was there — a 
goodly number, a cordial welcome, hospitality at its best, a 
carefully arranged program, every speaker present and pre- 
pared. There was also spirit in everything, not a dull moment 
from beginning to end, and enough in reserve for double the 
time. It was an Asburian Conference and Pilgrimage. Early 
Thursday morning, June 27, conveyances carried our League 
pilgrims to Spottsylvania Courthouse, twelve miles southwest 
of Fredericksburg. We journeyed on four miles to the south- 
west of Spottsylvania Courthouse to the site of the George Ar- 
nold house. The Leaguers of the Washington District had 

238 Francis Asbury. 

a solemn procession of twenty thousand people, led 
by Bishop McKendree and William Black, the repre- 
sentative of British Methodism to the General Confer- 
ence, followed the holy dust to its new resting place. 
Of kindred in blood, there was none to mourn ; but 
Henry Boehm and John Wesley Bond, his "sons" in 
long and dutiful ministries, stood by the coffin as chief 
mourners, while thousands of hearts besides in silence 
reverenced with mingled sorrow and gladness the mem- 
ory of the illustrious dead. Bishop McKendree deliv- 
ered a brief discourse, "full of pathos and embracing 
some of the leading facts of his history and traits of 
character," after which the casket was lowered into the 
vault. In June, 1854, the remains of Asbury were 
again disinterred and buried in Mount Olivet Ceme- 

secured the plot of ground on which the house stood and 
ejected upon it a granite marker five feet in height bearing 
this inscription : 





DIED MARCH 31, l8l6. 





Iii the shade of a large walnut tree we held our service. We 
sang John Wesley's noble lyric, 'How happy is the pilgrim's 
lot;' read the twenty-first chapter of Revelation, the scripture 
expounded by John Wesley Bond, at Bishop Asbury's request, 
the day he died; an address on the 'Life and Character of 
Francis Asbury,' another on the 'Gospel Ministry;' conclud- 
ing with a consecration service in which a large number par- 

The Sunset Vision. 239 

tery. Baltimore, where are the graves of Robert Straw- 
bridge and Jesse Lee, as also those of not a few others 
of Methodism's unforgotten dead. 

Speech cannot perfectly portray the lineaments of 
the righteous, nor make wholly real to thought the 
miracles of their deeds and sacrifices. The martyrs 
and confessors are but little perceived aside from the 
nimbuses and aureoles that encompass them. The 
spiritual, the world-changing forces that informed the 
souls of the mighty dead are elusive to our busy and 
too often enslaved thoughts. St. Paul is better known 
to the average Christian by his long travels, the scour- 
gings which he received, and the imprisonments which 
he suffered than by his doctrines or the silent mastery 
of his deathless soul. Perhaps it comes of human lim- 
itations — our necessary dependence upon the tangible 
as a means of reaching the unseen, the spiritual. Fran- 
cis Asbury has been dead less than a century ; but it 
is only the picture of the pioneer Bishop tirelessly tra- 
cing the continent on horseback, in sulky, or in chaise 
that popularly survives. The apostolic spirit that, mov- 
ing from land to land, drew about it the destinies of 
a mighty people, and shaped, to an extent which the 
hands of none other were permitted to shape, a civili- 
zation Christian at heart because that heart was 
preached into it — that spirit is but faintly seen by mod- 
ern American eyes. Two hundred and seventy thou- 
sand miles he traveled during his episcopate, preached 
sixteen thousand sermons, ordained four thousand 
ministers, and sat as the president of two hundred and 
twenty-four Annual Conferences. Prodigious accom- 
plishment ! And yet it is beyond even this circum- 
stance of figures that we must seek the true Asbury, 

240 Francis Asbury. 

The circuit of his power and influence is to the ends 
of our history ; and though it cannot be so confidently 
said of him as Southey said of Wesley, that millen- 
niums hence the influence of his life and work will be 
felt and acknowledged, the days that shall witness to 
him are yet many in the centuries to be. 


Abingdon, 124, 129, 138. 

African slavery, no, in, 134, 
213, 214. 

Aldersgate, 26. 

Allen, Beverly, 134. 

Andrew, Bishop, 227. 

Annual Conferences : Prophe- 
sied, 159; evolution of, 163, 
166; (1807), 203; (1808), 
209; (1809), 212, 213, 214, 
217; (1810), 218, 219; 
(1811), 220, 221; (1812), 
226; (1813), 227; (1814), 

Appalachians, 105, 145, 164. 

Arnold, George, 236, 237. 

Articles: Thirty-Nine, 27; 
Twenty-Five, 127. 

Asbury : Claims on Church 
and nation, 6 ; birth and child- 
hood, 9, 10; parentage, 10, 
11; religious bent, n; educa- 
tion, 13; enters service, 14; 
apprenticed, 15, 37; intellec- 
tual powers, 17, 43; appear- 
ance in youth, 18; conver- 
sion, 20, 35 ; reticence, 23 ; 
licensed to preach, 37; early 
ministry, 31 ; circuits trav- 
eled, 37; finishes apprentice- 
ship, t>7\ assistant, 38; char- 
acter of preaching, 38; in 
favor with Wesley, 39; limi- 
tations, 40; knowledge of 
Hebrew and Greek, 41; offers 
for America, 38, 47; sails, 
42 ; taste, 43 ; writer of verse, 
46; voyage to America, 47; 
debarks at Philadelphia, 49, 
50 ; Church owes itinerancy 
to, 50; first circuit, 51 ; exam- 
ple, 51, 52; goes into Mary- 
land, S3!. to New York, 53, 
54; appointed General As- 


sistant, 54; desires to found 
college, 55; in Maryland, 57, 
58, 82 ; enforces discipline, 
61 ; writes to Wesley, 61 ; 
activity, 62 ; triumphs in 
Rankin, 64; hungers for per- 
fection, 67; misunderstanding 
with Rankin, 75, 76; is fined 
for preaching without civil 
license, 82, 83; at Warm 
Springs, 83, 84; at Annapolis, 
84, 85, 87; joint Assistant, 

87, 88; exiled in Delaware, 

88, 89, 92 ; calls a Conference, 
92, 93 ; before Virginia Con- 
ference, 97, 98 ; secures re- 
union of societies, 98, 102 ; 
takes general oversight of 
whole work, 99, 100, 109; be- 
comes an American, 99, 102, 
108; new task, 103, 104; finds 
new mission field, 105; writes 
account of Methodist move- 
ment, 107 ; reappointed by 
Wesley, 112; personality, 
113, 114, 117, 119; picture of, 
118; first meeting with Coke, 
120; calls council of preach- 
ers, 121, 122; elected bishop, 
or general superintendent, 
126; ordained, 126, 127; first 
episcopal tour, 130, 131, 132, 
133. J 34! alone in episcopacy, 
135 ; takes first missionary 
collection, 137; enters West- 
ern settlements, 139; tour of 
1787, 144, 145; receives letter 
of rebuke from Wesley, 147; 
opposes a General Conference, 

148, 149; favors a council, 

149, 150; his move for edu- 
cation, 151, 152; enters New 
England, 153, 154; defers to 
General Conference, 157; 



Francis Asbury. 

position strengthened, 159, 
162; prolonged sickness, 173, 
174; reasons for celibacy, 
191 ; estimate of as a preach- 
er, 196, 197; makes a dis- 
covery, 200; grounds of epis- 
copacy, 202; rejoices in the 
camp meeting, 210; idea of 
episcopacy, 212; refinement 
of, 216, 217; distributes 
tracts, 220 ; goes into Cana- 
da, 221 ; address to General 
Conference, 224; lost full 
year of work, 228 ; resigns 
the Conferences, 231 ; fare- 
wells, 231; appearance, 231; 
revises journal, 232; utters 
prophecy, 233 ; last Confer- 
ence, 233 ; last messages, 
233; last entry in journal, 
233, 234; last sermon, 235; 
death, 236; burial, 237, 238; 
remains disinterred, 238, 
239; estimate of, 240; sum- 
mary of labors, 240. 

Ashgrove, 188, 189. 

"Assistant Bishops," 170, 207. 

"A thirty-dollar chaise," 212. 

Atmore's Journal, 200. 

Bailey, Edward, 101, 102. 

Ball, Mary, 139. 

Baltimore, 59, 60, 67. 

Baltimore Conference as "Up- 
per House," 148. 

Barrett's Chapel, 120, 214, 215. 

Bassett, Gov. Richard, 200, 215. 

Benson, Joseph, 63, 233. 

Bishop's Cabinet, 211, 227. 

"Black Harry," 122. 

Black, William, 238. 

Blackman, Learner, 219. 

Boardman, Richard, 49, 50, 52, 
54, 55, 64. 

Boehm, 209, 212, 218, 227, 228, 

Bohemia Manor, 107. 

Bond, J. W., 229, 236, 238. 

Book Concern, 137, 139, 227. 

Bromwich Heath, 36. 

Bromwich, West, 23. 

"Brown Bread Preachers," 42, 

Bruce, Philip, 206, 237. 
Buckle, 113. 
Bulla, C. D., 237. 

"Calm Address," Wesley's, 81. 

Camp meetings, 183, 184, 210. 

Capers, Bishop, 213. 

Carroll, Mr., 68. 

Cartwright, Peter, 219. 

Choptank, 104. 

Christmas Conference (see also 
Conference), 109, 112, 113, 
123, 125, 129, 130, 136, 142; 
considered as first General 
Conference, 156, 157, 159, 
164, 167. 

Church of England (see Es- 

Circulation of preachers, 51, 


Coke, Dr. Thomas, 102, 114; 
commissioned by Wesley to 
America, 115; ordained, 116; 
118, 120, 121, 122, 124, 125, 
126, 127, 128, 130, 135, 140, 
141, 146, 147, 152, 153, 157, 
159, 160, 163, 169, 171, 173, 
177, 190, 199, 201, 202, 208, 
209, 213, 215, 225, 229, 230. 

Cokesbury, 135, 136, 151, 152, 

Communicants, Methodist, 49, 
107, 112, 139, 189, 202, 204, 

Conference, first in America 
(1773), 64; second (1774), 
69; third (1775), 74; fourth 
(1776), 81; fifth (1777), 86; 
sixth (1778), 90; seventh 
0779, two sessions), 91, 
94; (1780), Northern, 96; 
(1780), Southern, 97, 98; 
(1781), 104; (1782), 108, 
109; (1783), no, in; (1784), 
112; Christmas, 125; first of 



Methodist Episcopal Church, 
133; (1785), 136,138; (1786), 
138; Coke changes date of 
(1787), 140, 141; (1788), 
144; (1789), 146; (1790), 
150; (1791), 153; (1792), 
155, 161; (1793), 163, 164; 
(1794), 164, 165; (1795), 
166; consolidated, 169, 170; 
(1796), 167; (1797), 173; 
(1798), 174; (1799). 174, 
175; (1800), 182; (1801), 
184; (1802), 186; (1803), 
188; (1804), 190, 194; 
(1805), 197, 198. 

Confession, 127, 192. 

Congress, Continental, 74. 

Constitution, 205, 206, 223. 

Cooper, Ezekiel, 192, 206. 

Cornwallis, General, 99, 102. 

Council, The, 149, 150, 151, 152, 
153, 158, 224. 

Creighton, Rev. Mr., 116. 

Curnick, 24. 

Dallam, 83, 124, 161. 
Davies, Rev. Mr., 55. 
Deacon, Office of, 127, 129. 
Debt of Maryland to Asbury, 

Deer Creek, 86, 90, 109, 218. 
Deism, 56, 84. 
Delegated General Conference, 

206, 221, 223. 
De Peyster, Miss, 188. 
Dickins, John, 112, 118, 137, 

142, 174, 192. 
Discipline, Book of, 125, 127, 

130, 136, 138, 142, 147. 159, 

170, 177, 192. 
Dow, Lorenzo, 174. 
Dromgoole, Edward, 87. 

Elder, Office of, 127, 129. 
Electoral Conference, 201. 
Ellis's Preaching House, 108, 

1 10. 
Embury, Philip, 49, 51, 52, 188. 
Engles, 215. 

English Conference, 225. 
Episcopal Address, 223. 
Establishment, English, 33, 100, 

112, 114, 116, 135. 
Eutaw Street Church, 237. 
Evans, Henry, 198. 
Experience, 25, 210. 

Fitchett, 71. 

Fletcher, John, 24, 114, 163. 
Fluvanna Conference, 91 ; pres- 
bytery, 94, 95. 
Foster, James, 80. 
Fulton, Robert, 215. 

Garrettson, Freeborn, 82, 90, 
92, 106, 122, 141, 158, 166, 
167, 237. 

Gatch, Philip, 87, 94. 

Gates, General, 99, 102. 

General Conference, first sug- 
gested, in, 148, 156; South- 
ern, 156, 157, 167, 169, 177, 
178, 181, 182, 185, 191, 192, 
218, 219. 

General Superintendent, 142, 

143, 157. 
George, Enoch, 205. 
Gibson, Tobias, 165, 196. 
Glendenning, William, 87. 
Gough, 68, 83, 86, 103, 161, 182, 

195, 208, 209, 214. 
Governing Committee, 86, 94. 
Gregory, 215, 224. 
Gwin, James, 219, 221, 223, 233, 


Haeck, 188. 

Hammett, William, 152. 
Hampstead Bridge, 9, 36. 
Hartley, Joseph, 80, 84, 90. 
Haweis, 24. 
Hedding, Elijah, 205. 
Hickson, Woolam, 133. 
Hill, Rev. Green, 133, 161. 
Hillsboro, 101, no. 
Hinde, Dr., 190. 
History of Methodism, Lee's, 


Francis Asbury. 

Hitt, Daniel, 227. 
Kolston, in, 130, 145, 167. 
Hooper, Christopher, 63. 
Hugo, Victor, 202. 
Hull, Hope, 155, 158, 163, 175. 
Huntingdon, Countess of, 24. 
Hurst, Bishop, 140. 
Hymn Book, 204. 

Icelandic spar, 5. 
Indian hostilities, 155. 

Jarratt, Rev. Mr., 80, 96, 100, 

107, 108, 185, 232. 
Jefferson, Thomas, 197. 
John Street Church, 223. 

Kentucky, 138, 164, 182. 
King, Robert, 52. 

Lafayette, General, 167. 

Lay preaching, 33, 35. 

Lee, Jesse, 77, in, 122, 132, 
154, 158, 165, 168, 174, 175, 
177, 179, 181, 182, 201, 239. 

Lee, Richard Henry, 166. 

Lee, Wilson, 187, 196. 

Leesburg, 90, 91. 

Lewis, Col. Meriwether, 190. 

Liberty Hall, 74. 

Light Street Church, 156, 237. 

Liturgy, 122, 127. 

"Louisiana Purchase," 190. 

Lovely Lane Meetinghouse, 

Magna Charta of Methodism, 
118, 121, 122, 123, 123. 

Manikintown, 104. 

Maryland, 55, 56. 

McGaw, Rev. Mr., 95, 96, 119. 

McKendrec, Bishop, 158, 159, 
182, 187, 193, 196, 200, 205, 
207, 208, 214, 217, 219, 22r, 
222, 223, 225, 226, 227, 228, 
230, 231, 232, 233, 237, 238. 

McKendree Church, 226. 

Methodism, springing of in 
America, 49; new era, 99; 

polity of, 103; close of its 
colonial period, 112; episco- 
pal, 117, 134; its propaganda, 

Methodist Episcopal Church 
organized, 126. 

Ministers, Evangelical, 33. 

Minutes, 125, 127, 130, 140, 147. 

Missions to slaves, 213. 

Moravian settlements, no, 

Morrell, Thomas, 146, 158. 

Mount Olivet Cemetery, 238, 

Mount Vernon, 134. 
Mudge, 165. 
Myers, Lewis, 237. 

Xapoleon, 190. 
Nashville, in, 183. 
Natchez, 165. 
Nelson, John, 34, 35. 
New England, 52. 
New York, 53. 
Norfolk, 76, 77, 79. 

Oglethorpe, 163. 

O'Kelley, James, 90, 101, 150, 

158, 161, 184, 187. 
Ordinances, 90; administration 

of suspended, 98, T09, 123, 

Ordination, Wesleyan, 116, 117, 

Ostrander, 165. 
Otterbein, 68, 69, 84, 127, 187, 

209, 210, 228. 
Oxford Methodists, 131. 

Peddicord, 90. 

Perfect love, 21. 

"Perry Hall," 68, 86, 102, 103, 

125, 136, 169, 182, 214, 232. 
Petrine primacy, 118. 
Pcttigrew, Rev. Charles, 106. 
Philadelphia, 49, 106. 
Pickering, George, 232, 237. 
Pilmoor, Joseph. 49, 52, 64, 




Pioneer communities, 6. 

Poythress, 80. 

Prayer Book (see "Sunday 

Prayer, Day of, 75, S2. 
Preacher, Early Methodist, 31, 

Presiding eldership, 126, 127, 

128, 196, 211, 222. 
Primitive Church, 123, 126. 

Quarterly meeting, first in 
America, 59; "Conferences," 
106, 107. 

Rankin, Thomas, 63, 64, 69, 70, 
75, 78, 81, 86, 87, 88, 90, 208. 

Reed, Nelson, 141, 158, 237. 

Reformation, 27. 

Rembert, Col. James, 161. 

Rembert Hall, 161, 196. 

Revival, Wesleyan, 30; in Vir- 
ginia, 78, 79, 107; general, 
151, 181, 212. 

Revolution, War of, 94, c,y, 
108, 146. 

Richards, Thomas, 34. 

Ridgeley, Capt. Charles, 68. 

Roberts, Robert R., 165, 175, 

Rodda, Martin, 87. 

Ruff, Daniel, 87. 

Rush, Dr., 221. 

Russell, General, 145, 161, 167. 

Sacerdotalism, 100. 
Sacramental controversy, 90, 

91 ; end of, 98, 100, 104, 108. 
St. George's Church, 52, 64. 6^, 

Schools, Primary, 151, 152. 
Shadford, G., 79, 87, 88, 107, 

Snethen, Nicholas, 184. 
Soule, Joshua, in, 205, 206. 
Steamboat, 215. 
Stevens, Dr. Abel, 156, 165. 
Strawbridge, Robert, 49, 52, 66. 
Strickland, Dr., 44. 

Sunday schools, 151. 
"Sunday Service," 122, 127, 130, 

Taylor, 165. 

Theology, Wesleyan, 26, 100. 
Tiffin, Governor, 190. 
Transfer system, 198. 

Van Cortlandt, Governor, 161, 

167, 232. 
Vasey, Thomas, 116, t 18, 123, 

126, 128. 

Venn, 24. 

War note, 74. 
Warfields, The, 166. 
Washington, General, 134, 146, 

167, 175. 176. 
Watters, Nicholas, 196. 
Walters, William, 86, 87, 90, 

91. 94- 
Webb, Captain, 49, 51, 52, 63. 
Wednesbury, 24, 36. 
Wesley, Charles, 23- 
Wesley, John, 22, 81, 98, ico, 

109, 112, 114, 115, 116, 117. 

118, 141, 142, 147, 148, 152, 

163, 169, 176, 200, 202. 
Wesleyan Conference. 63, t 1 5. 

173, 177. 
Wesleyanism, 25. 
Westall, Thomas, 34. 
Whatcoat, Richard, 116, 118, 

123, 126, 128, 141, 179, 193. 

194, 197, 200, 201. 
White, Judge, 89, 93. 
White, Rev. Dr., 119, 161, 166. 
Whitefield, 24, 3.3. 
Whitney, Eli, 186. 
Whitworth, Abraham, 65. 
Williams, Robert, 52, 76, 77, 80 
Williamsburg, no. 
Willis, Henry, 131, 132. 
Wofford College, 152. 
Wright, Richard, 47, 52, 168. 

Yadkin, no. 
Yearbry, Joseph, 65.